We've chuckled recently when we have asked some of the students about their biggest challenges and found that frequently the answer is, "bride price." It seems like a funny thing to be a major challenge, but it is! Particularly for the tribes right around our area. Typically in cultures that have a tradition of bride price, a man hoping to marry a woman will pay her family a set payment in goods or cash in order to win her as a bride. That's true here too, and elsewhere on the island a man might exchange a few pigs (the traditionally raised meat, and pigs are very valuable) or pay about $200. However over time the tribes around us and in some other areas across the country, the expected bride price has risen astronomically.
Some of our students have had marriages or potential marriages that had bride prices in thousands of dollars or a vehicle. That's enormous for a place where $200 is a monthly wage, and many people in these villages are subsistence farmers with no wage at all. And so our students feel stuck, because they want to marry but the women of their people group are essentially prices out of the market. They would like to marry someone from their own culture but the high bride prices make them more likely to look for a bride from elsewhere than they otherwise would. They might have to choose to go deeply in debt in order to afford a mate. And our students from elsewhere on the island are interested in courting some of their fellow students from local tribes, but again, the price is so high. Imagine if you're one of the women and you wish to honor your family but because of the bride price they've set on you, you're losing out on marrying good potential mates!