Waist beads are common among many African women and especially those along the Coastal region. In Mombasa, they are referred to by many as 'Shanga', and are worn for various reasons.
Other women who copy this practice end up using the beads for beauty purposes only, not considering its other values.
At the Coastal region of Kenya, specifically in Mombasa, women put on these beads for the following reasons:
1. Protection from black magic
Coast is so much associated with black magic and witch doctors. Parents would protect their daughters from such evil powers by use of special beads. "Shanga yaweza kumzuia mtoto asifuate na majini akienda baharini, (They cover the kid from jini)," said elderly Mzee Hassan. He added that boys were covered from such powers with hand beads.
2. Sexual reasons
Shanga are also worn for intimate reasons and specifically for one's husband. It is said it makes a woman look more attractive before her husband, which increases chances of satisfying him sexually. A newly-married woman who comes with beads on her waist is a simple of purity.
3. To show she is a virgin
As indicated above, beads indicate she is a virgin reserved for her future husband.
4. They are also used to help in keeping a man
Some men may think of sleeping with one woman and move to the next like it meant nothing to hurt the first one. Special beads are worn so that such like evil men are restricted from hit-and-run mission.
"Shanga zazuia magonjwa kwa kumfunga mpenzio asiwe kiruka njia, (They protect couples from having several sexual partners)," added Mzee Hassan.
5. Other reasons include boasting one's confidence, increase attractiveness, an indication of maturity among others.