Why A Ghanaian Lady Wears 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 area, here in Accra, 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 in Makola and elsewhere on the streets of the city, you can say ladies here are wearing beads of different colours, colour combinations and designs just like any woman would wear. Usually, the beads are made of hard plastics, 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 an article for Labone Express. I interviewed ladies I work with first, and I phoned friends and old some flames afterwards for interview. 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.

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.

It gives me shape

Boatemaa, 31, one of the ladies 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’.

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.

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, men  have been unhappy on occasions where they were not wearing beads.

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. 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, Vera: ‘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.

15 thoughts on “Why A Ghanaian Lady Wears Waist Beads

  1. nice piece, sometimes after wearing it since childhood you also tend not to feel comfortable when you are not wearing one, it makes you feel somehow naked.

  2. Love the article. I’m Nigerian and I’m now into waist beads when I got to my late 30s. It makes me feel beautiful and confident.

  3. why isn’t there any post about the disadvantages of wearing waist beads? Been wearing them and they seem to be disturbing me alot by exposing themselves no matter how much i try to hide them in my clothes.

    1. well I will advice you check your weight, cos the beads also helps you to know whether you are adding weight or loosing weight.

  4. Hi George. I think the disadvantages are minimal and just more personal preference. So if the beads you have are exposing themselves, it sounds like they are too loose? It’s probably worth tightening them if they are? Or finding another style of beads? Getting new ones or not wearing them at all? Just some thoughts…

    Also to add to the discussion, the beads make me feel more feminine when I’m wearing them on my waist. I think it’s the fact that they accentuate that area of the body…

  5. That’s very educating. In some other parts of West Africa wearing of waist beads is seen as fetish. Some are of the opinion that a woman wears that to charm or bewitch any man she sleeps with while wearing it during sex, others think that some jealous husbands demand their wives wear magical waist beads to trap and expose intruders.

  6. I’m a Ghanaian and I have never worn one before. My mum didn’t train us with beads, yet still I’m curvy and slim. She said it’s kind of fetish, and beads were given by great-grandmothers in the olden days. Superstition: there’s some belief that these oldies may pass witchcraft to their great-grandchildren. Some say yes it gives them shape I think naturally Ghanaian women are curvy; it’s not the beads that create the curves . The last time I wanted to try a bead on it got missing somewhere. I’m so not liking this beads stuff.

  7. My fiancé gave me waist beads…it may be fetish for him…lol… I never thought about it that way before. I do think they’re sexy BUT I could tell that I had gained a few pounds or was bloated or something when they started to rise up and get tight and that I was back down and even a bit slimmer by how they rest on my hips…and I thought that was their main purpose. Although, I have read recently that women would also use them to attach their menstrual cloths back in the day and that made sense, too.

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