Waist beads are now abused, complain Coast people

The items are culturally essential reminders in marriage

In Summary

• Many women use the waist beads for beauty and fashion but they do not know the real meaning of them.

• They come in different colours, each with a specific meaning; when a woman is in red, it means she is in her menses and not ready for sex.

Waist beads are supposed to be beauty and fashion statements. They are must-have items to the brides-to-be.

They come in different colours, each with a specific meaning. When a woman is in red, it means that she is in her menses and not ready for sex.

When she is in white waist beads, she is ready to be sexually involved with her man.  A woman in black waist beads needs to have her hair shaved.

This is how it was and how it should be. Waist beads are a treasure for coastal women. They are essential reminders in marriage.

A lot has, however, changed. Many a woman these days wears the beads without attaching the specific meaning to the colours.

Just before a Coast woman is married, the bridegroom’s relatives bring the waist beads in a bag alongside other important items like nice dresses, lingerie and shoes.

An elderly woman, loosely referred to as a midwife, is supposed to take the bride-to-be through specific aspects of the waist beads and other aspects of married life. The girl is taught how to wear the beads to impress her husband.

She is taught not to call it by name –  doing so is considered shameful.  The preferred name is ‘piriton’. Piriton serves as a drug to the husband.

The Star talked to Fatuma Abeid, a midwife for more than 25 years. She is revered by mothers with daughters about to get married in her Bamburi backyard.

Abeid lamented that the usage of waist beads wa abused these days.

“These days people wear them for showing off. Others wear them as fashion items while some do not even know their meaning.

"Some expose them to the rest of the world when only the husband is supposed to see them. They are not supposed to be seen by everybody,” she said.

Abeid said while some men understand the meaning of the colours, many more do not know what they are for these days.

“For men who understand and know the colours, you will find a person automatically understanding that when his wife has worn black waist beads then she definitely needs a shave,” she said.

She said the beads bring pleasure to both the husband and the wife during intimacy.

She regretted that most people who want to get married these days do not have sex education and married life counselling. That is why many marriages were breaking.

Collins Wafula, a Mombasa resident, says he sees women in waist beads and thinks the items are merely beauty items just like jewellery.

Wafula had no idea that it has a cultural meaning. “That is so interesting. I never knew they have some great cultural meaning. I only knew women wear them as fashion and beauty items.” 

Mombasa-born Mohamed Abbas knows what the waist beads mean.

He, however, said that they are not being used according to the way they should be used.

He says he sees many women exposing them while they are not supposed to be seen by everyone.

“Cultures have been broken, many women these days just expose them off meaning that they are going against culture. The waist beads should be worn by married women and only seen by the husband but that is practiced by very few people nowadays,” Abbas said.

Married just recently, last year to be precise, Amina Zuheir says the waist beads was indeed granted to her on her wedding day.

She however says she has never used it until now because she was not given instructions on how to use them.

She blames it on midwives saying that they are paid for nothing as they are not delivering what they are supposed to deliver, that is enlightening the new bride on how she should behave when she is with her husband.

“Midwives of today are just showoffs, they are paid for nothing because they do not deliver what they should. Like I was told my midwife that she was to adjust my waist beads so that it fits me but that did not happen and until now I have not used it,’ Zuheir said.

As some still treasure it as culture, many do not know the inside meaning of the waist beads therefore misusing it as they wear it as fashion and to show beauty making the coastal people who know its meaning to get disappointed.