We're in Stara Zagora Bulgaria at a bride market This is the biggest annual celebration of the Roma clan, the Kalaidzhi And here, young Kalaidzhi girls are sold by their families to suitors who bid on them "Are you asking me how much money I am?" We're here to find out why these markets are happening and how the young brides feel about being sold off "What the f***?" "He shot me!" The 18000-strong Kalaidzhi clan is a sub-group of the Roma people who face constant prejudice and exclusion across Europe Based in the region of Thrace in central Bulgaria They have drawn international attention for the controversial annual bride market Women openly being sold like property in a European country in 2016 seems ludicrous I want to explore how something that sounds so medieval can exist within modern society *gobble* A meeting with a Kalaidzhi family with two daughters "I think this is where they live" To see how they prepare for the bride market Pepa is 25, and Rosi 19 How are you? I get a warm welcome from their mom, Vera Then Pepa offers to give me a tour of the house "Oh hello" *Piglet squealing* "He's scared, he wants his mummy" There's only 2 bedrooms to share between all 8 of them and the living room doubles up as a bedroom for the parents No matter where you go in the world, the family photos always seem to come out "This is you?" Vera was sold to their dad, Kristo, at a bride market I want to know how the family feels about the prospect of Pepa and Rosi also being sold in a couple of days I'm taken aback by how matter-of-fact they all are about the possibility of being sold off "This Saturday is the big bride market" "Have you already found some suitable men for your daughters?" Unsurprisingly, Vera and her daughters don't have the same taste in men Vera tells me there are strict rules surrounding Kalaidzhi girls' contact with guys But Pepa and Rosi have found the loop-hole "So the girls are showing me the guys they talk to on social media "You're like a million times hotter" "There's this one boy I think who's really cute right now" "What kinds of boys do you like?" "Oh my God… he looks terrifying!" "Jesus.. you would kiss him?" Rosi has her eye on one guy in particular "Will he be at the market?" "So his parents want to ask for your hand?" I ask if they're ever allowed to spend time alone with their potential future husband They may not have the freedom that I take for granted But they are allowed to spend big on clothes to impress the opposite sex But even with all these clothes the girls want to hit the shops to make sure they turn heads on the big day "When you go to the market how important is the dress?" "What are the things that will make you get a higher price?" Rosi's outfit cost almost an average Kalaidzhi weekly salary But Vera considers it an investment into her daughter's future "Let's try this" Then it was my turn to try on some looks "Wow" I grabbed the opportunity to ask if they ever dream of a different life than that of a housewife "Does anything stand in the way for you to fulfill these dreams?" "Would you like to study and go to school?" Only 10% of Bulgarian Roma women have secondary education And 1 in 5 are illiterate With all the restrictions imposed on girls to preserve Kalaidzhi tradition I want to find out what their social life is actually like The twins Pepa and Mima are 19, and Vera only 16 I'm curious to know what the girls think is their most highly-prized asset as a potential bride "I could never marry a guy if I haven't at least tried to sleep with him before" * Girls giggle* "Do you think that's fair?" "How do you feel abut the bride market?" "Is that a fear?" Being married off to an older rich man is a legit fear I want to chat to Pepa, who at 25, is already old in Kalaidzhi terms The majority of girls marry between 13 and 20 "Do you feel the pressure on you now, at this market coming up, that you have to find a husband?" "I haven't even married anyone yet and I'm 33, so I get you" *Pepa giggles nervously* Pepa is lucky as her parents are patient and want her to find Mr. Right It's time to try some outfits for the Bride Market "What do you usually do when you get together?" "Do you know Kim Kardashian?" "The queen of the selfies. I'll show you" So when you do 'Duck Face' you do… The girls seem caught between conforming to a traditional culture but also wanting to embrace modern life Investing in two daughters at marrying age must be expensive so I asked their father, Kristan, to tell me about the family business. Cheap goods from China are affecting the once valued Kalaidzhi trade I'm starting to see why a high bride price has become even more important It's the night before the Bride Market and Vera's invited the extended family over for a party. *traditional music plays* So I've been given a Kalaidzhi makeover It's a pretty interesting experience just how they celebrate They dress up and they take lots of photos and they put it all up on Facebook to sort of show how much of a fun time they're having but the reality is that they can't even leave their house Everyone around is just the family *pop music plays* "Oh really? Me?" *traditional music plays* It's the morning of the Bride Market but before we go I've arranged to meet a girl who's rebelling against her family's desire to sell her off Why would they take you out from school so early? Would you like to study? Have you been able to go to school? Vasi has a boyfriend who is not Kalaidzhi I ask what would happen if her parents found out Good Morning How are you feeling today? What is considered beautiful? How come? What is the average Bride price? Have the markets changed from when you were younger? The Bride Market is held a 20 minute drive away in Stara Zagora in a big parking lot where some 2000 Kalaidzhi were getting the party started *dance music plays* Most of the girls eligible to be bid on at the market are 13 – 20 years old and the bidding has already begun Young boy: Money money, money money The girls are getting loads of attention The suitors are here and everyone is checking each other out Pepa and Rosi seem excited It hits me that this is the one time a year they can hang out with so many guys Is that your guy that you like behind us? Yeah he's not bad! not bad He just blanks her I wonder if he is put off by our crew? I get the hint and go off and check out the atmosphere How do you flirt? Have any boys shown any interest in you? Yes Who do you think is cute? What kind of girl are you looking for? Do you like the idea of bidding on a girl? oh ok You don't mind a strong woman? I want all my independence. I want to travel everywhere I want in the world. Nobody ever asking me where I am, what I'm doing or why. As soon as I walked in, guys started surrounding me asking how much I am Are you asking me how much money I am? I feel fundamentally uncomfortable with women being sold and bid on So I want to speak to Vera to find out what would actually happen if a suitor bids on one of her daughters today Speaking to Vera, it's apparent that the bride market is more like a massive speed dating event rather than the forced marriage market that the media reports Just before the market finishes I managed to catch up with Rosi Do you think that you'll find a future husband today? The girls seem happy to have made it through the day without being sold off Even Vera doesn't seem too bothered and accepts that tradition is not as rigid as it used to be Is this market different to when you were younger? I can't forget that these girls are being raised to serve future husbands instead of pursuing their ambitions but the Bride Market ended up being less disturbing than I feared it would be Perhaps this is just the Kalaidzhi's way of hanging on to their traditions, their pride and identity in an ever homogenized world.