Given the fact that culture is not static, several norms and beliefs are not immune to changes. Courtship in the Rwandan culture is one of those things that is changing. Courtship was extremely different from what it is today. However, a few families still maintain and promote the traditions.
Last weekend, I spoke to a married lady who almost faced the wrath of the old style of courtship in Rwandan traditions. However, she stood her ground and got married to the man she loved.
Her family had selected a groom for her at the age of 17. They were family friends and asked for her hand in marriage, which was known as ‘Gufatirembo’ in Kinyarwanda at the time. Nevertheless, while at University, she met an amazing man and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
When she told her family about this amazing person, they told her it was against the customs because they had already offered her hand in marriage to another person and were just waiting for her to complete school.
The way she described her family’s reaction to her little piece of news was like a scene in a Nigerian-movie where an extended family sits under a big tree and decides a woman fate without her consent.
Apparently, she tried to threaten her family - if they didn’t let her to marry the man she loved, she would elope without so much as an introduction ceremony. On realising her determination, the family gave up and accepted her man. She is now married to the man of her life - with a son and daughter.
In ancient traditions, a couple would get married only with the consent of their family especially the elders. It was a way of strengthening family ties. My grandmother told me that young women were married off without their consent. There was no courtship on an individual basis; it was mainly family courtship.
Today, gufatirembo happens a month or weeks prior to the wedding after the couple has courted for months or years. In a way, we have to maintain the traditions and practice them so that the young generation can relate to what happened in earlier times.
The way traditions have changed with time is a result of the world and its fast moving rate. People meet today and in a weeks’ time are walking down aisle. We can’t judge them but we do need to support and encourage them to at least embrace the traditions of their forefathers. That way, culture will stand the test of time.