Segments in this Video

Arranged Marriage in Africa (04:58)


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: A teen escapes an arranged marriage to an old uncle and finds refuge in the city. Her new boyfriend admires her independence.

Harar: Ancient City of Tradition (04:47)

Harar, a devout and ancient city, rejects the pull of modernity. Arranged marriages are still an entrenched tradition extending from time before the Islamic tradition.

Traditional Arranged Marriages (04:48)

Arranged marriages often come about through kinship needs. Rahel, engaged to an elderly uncle, ran away to avoid a lovely marriage, but left her family in chaos as a result. Rahel is not welcome in her village, but her mother wants her to come back.

Marriage Traditions in Mali (03:13)

In Mali, polygamy is a common and deeply entrenched custom some small villages. A wife may not object to a second wife because there is much work to do.

Male and Female Roles in Mali (03:58)

African men feel pressured to have a second wife because they cannot have sexual relations during the first year and a half after a woman gives birth. Women and children gather excrement for fuel and smoke the fish they catch to sell in the market.

Advantages of Polygamy (04:57)

Polygamy gives single women the opportunity to get a husband. A man, his two wives, and children go once a week to a market to sell their smoked fish. Women speak out for and against polygamy.

Large Families, Expenses, and Labor (02:10)

Larger families mean more expenses, but they also provide the needed labor to provide for the family. A woman tends to her baby; for nearly two years, she will not have sexual relations with her husband.

Bride-To-Be Chooses Husband (03:21)

In Mali, the Wodaabe also practice polygamy. A man may have as many wives as he can afford. If a wife leaves her husband, she must leave her children behind. Standards of beauty are stringent. Women choose their husbands.

African Beauty Contest/African Tradition of Values (04:30)

In Dakar, Senegal, a young woman prepares for the Miss Yongama competition. The winner is eligible for a good husband. The contest prizes the concept of African beauty.

Senegalese Women's Social and Financial Gatherings (01:58)

A group of Senegalese women meet monthly to draw lots for money and household goods. They save enough money to meet emergencies, and act as family "banks." Women use the meetings as social gatherings as well.

Changing Gender Roles in Africa (03:41)

Many African men want their wives at home, but women claim more rights to do as they want, including working when and where they want. Other African women try to keep their husbands' attention with cosmetics, perfumes, or sexy undergarments.

Beauty Pageant Participants (04:56)

Contestants in the Miss Yongama contest get their final fittings, and get their hair and makeup done. This contest is a unique opportunity for single women to feel beautiful and to attract a husband.

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“Will You Marry Me?” Marriage Customs in Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, and Senegal

Part of the Series : The Call of Africa: The Voice of a Continent
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Even today, the majority of African women in both city and country still aspire to get a good husband and have many children. This program sheds light on the pros and cons of marriage customs in sub-Saharan Africa as it relates the story of an Ethiopian woman who fled her home in Harar as a teen to avoid an arranged marriage to an uncle; two happily wedded women of Mali who are wives in a polygamous marriage; the nomadic Wodaabe of Niger, a culture in which a man may have many wives, but among whom it is the bride-to-be who chooses the husband-to-be; and a Senegalese woman competing to become Miss Yongama, a contest of beauty and style—and a proven shortcut to finding a husband. (Portions in other languages with English subtitles, 49 minutes)

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL39452

ISBN: 978-1-60467-357-9

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

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Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.