Waist beads vary in size, shape, colour and weight. They can be just simple ones made with ordinary beads of stones, or they can be decorated with glass or crystal beads, which are much more expensive.
African women have worn waist beads for centuries, and there are different reasons why each of these women wears them.
The main reason is to use it as a body shaper. Many women put it to their girl kids already when they are young, to enhance their curves to grow up with beautiful body shapes.
Also, women wear it to know if they are losing or gaining weight. Waist beads don’t usually stretch; therefore, a woman gaining weight will see the waist beads going up higher on the stomach or simply feel that it is tighter than it was. And if a woman is losing weight, the waist bead will simply fall.
Women also wear waist beads to be aware of their posture. The beads fit quite differently on these women, depending on their bearing.
Girls often start wearing waist beads from their mothers as they grow older, mostly during their first menstrual period, to show that they are now at the stage of maturity.
Another reason for wearing waist beads is for fertility reasons. When a woman gets married, many of her fellow women give her waist beads as a gift. According to these African women, waist beads are associated with fertility and can help the woman bearing children in her marital home.
Waist beads are also worn to show love and pride for the African traditional culture.
It is also believed that waist beads are good for healing stress and anxiety and help in relaxing the nerves during pregnancy.
Waist beads are also used as beautifiers for women and girls.