SOME REASONS WHY GHANAIAN WOMEN WEAR WAIST BEADS
Waist beads, you may have seen them, times without number, and probably played with or strummed them sometimes, if you’re a man. You may be wearing some now, or you may have worn them at one point or another, if you’re a lady.
Do you know it’s a cultural norm within most Ghanaian ethnic groups for a woman to wear one or more strings of beads on her waist—all the time? Norms such as these are religiously observed by the people of rural societies and small towns.
When a child is born a string or two of beads are worn for him or her, irrespective of the gender. As a male baby becomes a toddler, his beads are removed, but for a female child on the other hand, she is to keep wearing beads ‘forever’.
But today in the urban areas such as Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi amongst others which are far away from the small towns and rural societies where tradition and custom hold sway, ladies, educated ones and career women are observing and practicing the custom.
When you observe the beads on display for sale in markets, shops and elsewhere on the streets of the city, you can say ladies are wearing beads of different colours, colour combinations and designs just like any woman would wear. Usually, the beads are made of hard plastics, crystals, glass wood or metal. They are strung together on a fairly strong string.
Recently I decided to conduct a little survey on the idea for a write up. I interviewed ladies I work with first. A lot of the respondents in my little survey were, initially, wouldn’t open up and answer my questions. It’s almost like what you would experience when you make a proposition to a lady.
Some other respondents in this enterprise were excited and open to answer questions, even well beyond the scope of the survey [giggling]. In the end I gathered enough stuff to answer why a Ghanaian lady wears waist beads.
Waist beads are a traditional African accessory that consist of small glass beads on a string or wire worn around the waist or hips. They come in different colors and shapes and may also include decorative stones, crystals, or in some cases, charms.
Beads are normally small and spherical piece of a material such as glass, plastic or wood, that is pierced for stringing or threading to serve a purpose of beautification for the waist, neck, wrist or ankles.
The reasons a woman wears beads on her waist are based on certain beliefs they have and from what they’ve learned by way of personal experiences. So here’s why a Ghanaian lady wears waist beads.
In Ghana particularly, there are several reasons why women wear waist beads. These reason, although not all, may transcend to other African countries.
1. Waist beads are worn to shape the body
Traditional Ghanaian societies believe that waist beads serve as waist trainers for women. Mothers decorate their young male and female children with wait beads with the hope of giving them a great body shape or waistline. Although boys boys may discard it early in early life, girls wear waist beads, probably forever.
A 31-year old lady, one of the respondents to my interview told me she wears beads because ‘It gives me shape’. The most popular reason for a lady to wear beads on her waist is for the notions that it accentuates her waist. I discovered that accentuation of the waistline is a desirable feature for ladies.
The social construction of a beautiful woman here has body proportion where measurement of the waistline is smaller than those of the bust and hips. The Ghanaian lady believes that wearing waist beads helps her to define her waist in order to meet ‘this standard of beauty’.
2. It makes me beautiful
For some ladies, the waist bead is an essential fashion accessory. There’s a belief among our ladies that a woman who wears waist beads looks more sensuous and beautiful than one who does not wear any.
3. For sexual appeal
Waist beads are believed to make a woman more sexually appealing to men. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most Ghanaian men love to see their women in beads. Most of them have also admitted that seeing a woman in waist bead turns them on. They love to play with it as their women lay in their arms or during sexual activities as well.
4. My man finds it attractive
Another popular reason a lady wears the waist beads is for a man’s pleasure. A good number of men, I’ve learned simply can’t get their eyes and hands off those beads. In very private moments, some men hold onto waist beads like they do prayer beads. According to ladies interviewed, men have been unhappy on occasions where they were not wearing beads.
5. To demonstrate pride in our heritage
Waist beads have a link to Ghanaian culture and heritage. Several cultures in Ghana adorn waist beads on traditional occasions as a way of demonstrating their love for their culture.
6. I want to attract the attention of a man
This reason is probably the most compelling of all the reasons for women, I’ve heard in the interview. A woman wears beads to present herself as beautiful and sensuous to a man she desires, just to win his love. In instances such as this one, a woman invests energy, time and money into selecting and acquiring the ‘magic’ colours and designs to wear.
At a point in time, I asked one of the ladies, ‘Is there a time when a lady is happy she’s wearing waist beads?’
“Yes, all the time that she’s wearing it.” She replied “But most especially when she gets a new set of beads, and she’s ready to show it to that special someone”.
One of the best compliments a man can get from a lady, I’ve learned, is when she wears his name on her waist, just close enough.
7. Weight Awareness
Waist beads are commonly used by Ghanaian women to gauge changes in their weight. Rather than step on a scale, people can use waist beads to stay aware of any weight gain or loss in the abdomen. This method has prove effective over the years.
Waist beads don’t stretch. If you were to gain weight, the beads will sit higher on the waist or feel tight. Conversely, if you were to lose weight, the beads will feel loose and fall further down to the hips. That is how easy it if or them to see changes in their body.
8. For fertility reasons
Waist beads are believed to have some fertility powers. Among the Ashanti and Krobo cultures in Ghana, larger beads are added to a woman’s waist beads once she’s fertile so she makes noise when she walks to alert potential suitors nearby.
Special waist beads are also available for pregnant women. They are believed to provide protection for the mother and growing baby.