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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 10:58 GMT
Does size matter in Africa?
Botswana born model Kaone Kario won the  2005 Nokia face of Africa competition
After much of the holiday merry- making and eating, some people are sure to make losing weight and going to the gym a New Year resolution, but should size matter?

In some African cultures, being fat is a symbol of good life and wealth. In parts of Mauritania and Nigeria, girls and soon-to-be-brides are force-fed to make them plump and attractive.

Increasingly, there is pressure on women and young girls to look as thin as fashion models, even if their men say they prefer fleshier women.

What is your experience? Are you under pressure to slim down? Men, do you feel comfortable with a beer belly? Ladies, what is your ideal weight? How far would you go to reach your dream size?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

In Zimbabwe we have Miss Big Is Beautiful, a beauty contest for fat women, and I am proud to say that fat women are beautiful. Size does not matter at all in Africa because an African woman still looks beautiful whether fat or slim.
Harris Garikayi, Harare

There was a time many years ago when it was brought to my attention that I was fat. The comment came from my own stepfather and it has haunted me my whole life.
Jose, Jacksonville, USA

I grew up with low self esteem and no self worth due to name calling because of my body structure. To African society, I was just too skinny. I was called names like "bonga fish", "long rat" and other horrible names I try not to recall. My mother gave me several doses of combatrin to de-worm me, thinking something was wrong with me. I have changed over the years. I can't say I'm skinny any more but healthy at about 130 pounds. Personally, African traditions will always take a backseat to realistic health goals.
Kay, Nigerian in the US

There was a time many years ago when it was brought to my attention, that I was fat. The comment came from my very own stepfather. That comment has haunted me my whole life. It is highly unhealthy to push these ideals of weight on our youth. Although I have a stunning physique for a 29-year-old Mexican man, it doesn't matter because my self-image is that of a little fat boy.
Jose, Jacksonville, USA

When you consider the weather conditions in most parts of our continent, especially the strong winds that sometimes blow away roofs, being "big" serves as a safety measure. In fact, in such areas slim people face a real risk of being blown away, unless they opt to carry heavy stones on their person as an "anchor". A pot belly would be a more comfortable option.
Darlington Moshi, Nairobi, Kenya

Being chubby is a sure sign of health in Zimbabwe. With the AIDS epidemic sweeping the country, it's a clear sign that perhaps one is not suffering from the dreaded disease
Dave, Sydney, Australia

Being a native of Zimbabwe I can assure you that being chubby is a sure sign of health and wealth in Zimbabwe. With the AIDS epidemic sweeping the country, being chubby is a clear sign that perhaps one is not suffering from the dreaded disease.
Dave, Sydney, Australia

My girlfriend went back to South Africa after a stint in the UK during which she put on a couple of kilos. When one of her African friends saw her she said "you look so beautiful!" Big is definitely beautiful in Africa!
Gareth, Australia

Most African men do prefer plump and "fat" women. We should be more concerned about the health risks that come with excessive weight.
Ed, Augusta, USA

Of course size matters! I like the form and beauty of an African woman - shapely behind, plum face, thick legs to better shake to that ndombolo. But there can be extremes. Obesity is dangerous for anyone's health. As the old ways change with less walking, more sitting, everyone should be encouraged to exercise!
Bob, Chemilil, Kenya

Where are the breasts for feeding babies? Where are the legs like a beer bottle? Where are the protruding buttocks?
Muhoza Chiza, Mwanza, Tanzania

There is a popular saying that one man's meat, is another man's poison. We all have our views, perception and choice when it comes to size. Being fat has a lot of health implications such as heart disease and diabetes. I am currently doing everything possible to get rid of my beer belly even though I don't drink beer. It is not easy carrying all that weight around. I will not date nor marry a fat woman.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

In Africa generally and in Tanzania particularly, size is very, very important especially for ladies to be viewed as beautiful. One can't see how men tolerate being told that the Miss World Africa from Tanzania is beautiful! Yes, her face is worthy of a woman, but where are the "chakula cha mtoto" - breasts for feeding babies? Where are the "mguu wa bia" - legs like a beer bottle? Where are the "makalio ya haja" - protruding buttocks?
Muhoza Chiza, Mwanza, Tanzania

As I was growing up, I did not come across a situation where anybody was under pressure to trim the extra "mafuta". Things have changed though. I took a trip to Nairobi within the last year. On arrival, I was greeted by jovial faces that turned to dismay and shock about my weight. I am 6 feet tall and 180 pounds. The first question that greeted me was, "Ai! And you are fat, eh?"
Mwiwa, Ottawa, Canada

When my wife gave birth to my son one year ago, I saw her weight increasing because of breast feeding and eating lots of porridge. I didn't like it that way. After one year she is again beautiful, thinner and well-shaped. That is a modern man's interest in Ethiopia.
Yihunew Tebelu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

If I have to choose between a fat woman who has good character and a thin woman with bad behaviour, I won't hesitate to choose the beer belly woman
Ngomdum Marcel, Douala Cameroon
I like to be with thin girls. They look very beautiful and pretty. But the most important thing is not beauty. If I have to choose between a fat woman who has good character and a thin woman with bad behaviour, I won't hesitate to choose the beer belly woman.
Ngomdum Marcel, Douala, Cameroon

I'm all too aware about the new weight -conscious trend in Africa. I'm 5 foot 8 inches and have always weighed in the 50kgs range. Back home I did get a few compliments, but there was a lot more name-calling especially as I grew older and failed to fit the African image of a real woman. Fortunately I don't have a flat chest or life would have been intolerable. That said, I still feel unacceptable as an African woman in this regard.
Seun, Scotland

In the past, it was considered the norm for a woman to be fat. But in today's world, most women are striving to become "lepa shandi" (skinny). But it is still okay for a man to be all round and pot- bellied. In fact a skinny husband is a reproach to his wife.
Terry, Lagos, Nigeria

In my village in Cameroon, we have a highly- respected traditional dance in which men take part wearing only a traditional loin cloth. A fleshy body with a beer belly is seen in such circles as a sign of wealth. The skinny men are considered inferior. In my generation however, the reverse is true. But the pressure to slim down is not as much as it is in the western world.
Giles KK, Umea, Sweden.

they're some women out there, who are ready to go all the way to look good to lure men
Dorcas Akintunde, Ibadan, Nigeria
For a woman, I think the husband's opinion matters. Old school teaches us that whatever your husband wants you should try and adjust, as there are some women out there, who are ready to go all the way to look good to lure the men.
Dorcas Akintunde, Ibadan, Nigeria

Increasingly, especially in urban centres, being seen at a social function with a model-size woman is what a number of men want. I know of many men who have paid for their wives to attend gym sessions on a regular basis. The pressure is equally on men who are joining health clubs and taking on sports to lose weight.
Michael Okumu, Kampala, Uganda

Size does not define a person, but society is still vain and wants all of us to fit a certain size or look. To be thin does not mean anything if your inside is hollow. We should all create a realistic weight for our selves and stop trying to imitate Hollywood.
Beth, Houston, USA

I went as far as looking for a miracle pill till the doctor assured me that nothing was wrong with me
Chinwe Achebe, Nigeria
I was very slim in high school and people called me all kinds of names that made me avoid being seen in public. I ate everything to add weight in vain. I went as far as looking for a miracle pill till the doctor assured me that nothing was wrong with me. I later gained weight when I became pregnant, now I look good, feel good and control what I eat.
Chinwe Achebe, Nigeria

In my country, Liberia, big men are most respected. There is a common perception that size determines one's wealth and status in society. In fact, during the civil crisis it is alleged that many big bodied men and women were killed because the rebels wrongly assumed that they were the ones enjoying the country's wealth.
Isaac Yeah, Liberia

It all depends on the environment you live in. When I was in Africa weight was the least of my worries but, since moving to the USA losing weight is my everyday struggle
Anna, St Barbra,USA

I believe being slimmer will improve my health, appearance and will make me happier
Mamie Ondel, Glasgow, UK
Yes in Africa being "round" is seen as a sign of wealth and happiness and is especially expected of married women. It is taken as proof that one's husband is taking good care of them. I have been overweight for the last 20 years and am now trying to lose the excess fat. I believe being slimmer will improve my health, appearance and will make me happier.
Mamie Ondel, Glasgow, UK

Yes, size in Africa is a big matter, because for some African men a woman without a big backside is like food without salt. What I don't know is if they understand that being fat doesn't necessarily mean one is healthy.
Seikou, Heidelberg/Germany

In a free world, size, like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I was so slim before I had my third child that my peers, suggested I become a model. Unfortunately, I was already married. Now that I have four sons, my weight is average. It is good to look slim because modern dressing favours slender figures, but our African dresses look better on plump bodies. We cannot impose weight on anybody at this point in time, lets leave fashion models to retain their skeleton frames while the rest go along with their extra flesh. As for men, I do not like pot bellied men. I want my man to look good in those catalogue clothes.
Shuttie F.N. Libuta, Kitwe, Zambia

It's every man and woman's dream to look good. But, the hard economic times we live in cannot allow everyone to enrol in a gym. All some of us focus on is how to meet the basic necessities of life like food, shelter, clothing and education.
Geoffrey Omondi, Nairobi, Kenya

Some rich politicians have pot- bellies!
Robert Kakaire, Kampala, Ugand
In some Ugandan communities where malnutrition is common and corruption is rampant, being fat with a pot-belly is a sign of wealth. What's more some rich politicians here have pot- bellies!
Robert Kakaire, Kampala, Uganda

My wife is a big beautiful Nubian queen. I prefer her any day to the media and fashion industry created ideal of a beautiful woman. Many African men regard and appreciate a plump, robust, and shapely female as a gracious gift from the holy hosts of heaven.
Anthony Okosun, Baltimore, USA.

Generally men in Africa seem to prefer plump women but there is a wind of change blowing and some men are now into more "portable" girls as they say. I however think we ought to be more concerned about the health risks that come with excessive weight gain or loss.
Catherine, Tanzania





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