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Friday, April 20, 2012

Ladies, Do You Know Your Worth?

By: Meisha

Dudu Zuma's, President Jacob Zuma's daughter, Traditional Wedding**

One of the more interesting cultural traditions I have learned about during my time here in South Africa is the Lobolo.  It’s a traditional “dowry type” custom where the soon-to-be-groom compensates the soon-to-be bride’s family with cattle or cash to marry the bride. According to Wikipedia* (and yes I am quoting Wikipedia), “the custom is aimed at bringing the two families together, fostering mutual respect, and indicating that the man is capable of supporting his wife financially and emotionally.”

To my understanding, the “groom” will meet with the male heads of the “brides” family, i.e. her father, uncles, etc.  The males will then discuss and debate how much the bride’s Lobolo should be or in other words how much she is worth.  Her value is determined by how much and what type of education she has received, whether or not she is virgin or has any kids, her age, and her occupation amongst other things.    

My favorite response to someone hitting on me has now become, “you can’t afford my Lobolo.” OK I have to admit I haven’t said this aloud to anyone, but one day I really will, lol.  In the meantime, it has gotten me to thinking, what am I worth and have I been dating people that could afford my Lobolo? (I should state here that many South African couples date for an extended period so the man can save enough to pay the Lobolo)

I am 34, I have no kids, I have an advanced degree, once upon a time I had a “good” job, I speak 2 languages, working on learning 2 more languages, and I am well traveled.  So in this culture my Lobolo would be pretty high (and yes I have asked a couple people for reference).  BTW-I know these are somewhat superficial criterion, but I feel that my non-resume credentials and characteristics are high Lobolo worthy as well! :0)  

What I have realized during my time here is, how much I have dated people that probably couldn’t afford my Lobolo.  As a Black American female, I feel that American society tells me I need to “date down” in order to avoid the statistical plight of the single educated and successful Black female.   While, in South Africa I feel that I don’t need to be ashamed of my successes or feel that they are going to doom me to a life of singledom.  My successes just further increase my worth!!!

So to all my Single “Women of Color Living Abroad,” next time someone questions you about your relationship status or makes you feel guilty about forsaking pursuing a mate for traveling, just let them know you are working on increasing your Lobolo!!!  

*Wikipedia never disappoints and has a pretty good write up on the Lobolo. if you would like to learn more.


  1. This was an interesting read! I always knew the dowry to be set by the bride, not the groom and male family members. Does the bride have the option of disputing the agreed Lobolo?

  2. Glad you enjoyed. From what people have shared with me, women aren't allowed to take part in the discussions. Some male family members can get a bit greedy though when setting the price. So I do have some friends that have already discussed with their family that they do not want to have an inflated bride price.

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