Waist beads are a traditional African accessory—normally small and spherical piece of a material such as glass, plastic or wood on a string or wire— worn around the waist, hips, neck, wrist or ankles for several reasons. They come in different colors, shapes, sizes and may also include decorative stones, crystals, or in some cases, charms.
For several centuries, waist beads have been worn by women in many West African cultures especially Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Senegal. In more recent years, waist beads have gained popularity among women in the West.
In Ghana particularly, there are several reasons why women wear waist beads. These reasons, although not all, may transcend to other African countries.
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 waist beads with the hope of giving them a great body shape or waistline. Although boys may discard it early in early life, girls wear waist beads, probably forever.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.