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To the untrained eye, year-old Pepa and her year-old sister, Rosi, are like many millennial girls. They love dressing up, spending a lot of time on social media, and gossiping about boys. Yet, unlike other girls, the sisters have spent their life preparing for one main event that will dictate their future.
Coming from the Kalaidzhi Roma clan in Bulgaria means that every spring, young girls like Pepa and Rosi will be sold off to male suitors at the bride market in the town of Stara Zagora. It is the biggest annual gathering and all-round party for the community of around 18, people. In years gone by, they were predominantly skilled coppersmiths and lived in the rural areas where they fixed copper pots for a living. Nowadays, demand for their trade has since dwindled, and they face the challenge of economic hardships.
In Bulgaria, they are ranked as some of the poorest and as such, they seek unions based on marriages that are financially advantageous. These days, she felt that things have changed and girls have a bit more of an opinion when it comes to whom they may end up marrying. In her day, the girls would be lined up on a stage whilst men bid on or competed for their hand.
Nowadays, the girls are free to mingle and speak to potential suitors at the market. This means the girls are beautiful. The boys like them. The factors, which denote the price of the girl, are purely based on aesthetics — how nice her clothes are, and how pretty she is. The idealised concept of beauty is fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes.
Because of this, there is a proliferation of cosmetics many girls use to try to appear to have whiter skin. They are brought up not to discover who they are and their ambitions, but instead to obey and serve their future husbands. Most of the girls at the bride market are between the ages of 13 and Often times, girls are removed from school since the roles for women tend to predominantly revolve around taking care of the home and the family.