Women are perceived differently in various African societies. In some, they are considered companions and foundations of success for men, while in others, their roles are viewed differently. Regardless, African societies have expressed their perspectives on women, some of which are captured in notable proverbs like the ones below.
1: A man will never heed the voice of a woman until it’s too late
This African proverb is often used to describe how men disregard women advice sometimes ending in serious problems due to that.
2: A woman stomach does not grow if she is not pregnant
The West African proverb is used to detail how important women are in the African society, especially as mothers.
3: A pregnant woman cannot claim to be a virgin
This African proverb is used to warn women of how some things in life are irreversible like the loss of their value.
4: A woman is never old when it comes to the dance she knows
This proverb means that once a woman masters something so well, she will remain knowledgeable in that area until her death.
5: A woman is like a bee, treat her well and she will make honey; treat her badly and she will go wild.
This African proverb instructs men on how to treat women, emphasizing that good treatment results in positive outcomes, just as bad treatment yields negative consequences.
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6: He who steals in the company of a woman will live in fear until she dies
This proverb addresses the indiscrete nature of women. The proverb is normally used to caution people from getting into any sensitive deals with women lest they live to regret.
7: A woman is not cassava to be valued by roasting and tasting
The African proverb implies that women should not be treated as commodities to be assessed based on appearance or superficial qualities.
8: If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)
Quick meaning: Empowering women through education has a broader impact on society, as women play a crucial role in shaping and educating future generations.
9: A woman polite devotion is her greatest beauty
This West African proverb teaches women to always be polite and humble for that constitutes their greatest beauty contrary to the belief of the outside beauty they portray.
10: A home without a woman is like a barn without a yam
Quick Meaning: The absence of a woman in a home is compared to a lack of a valuable and essential element.
11: A woman who pursues a man for sex loses her spiritual beauty
Meaning: Chasing after physical desires at the expense of spiritual values diminishes a woman’s inner beauty.
12: A woman who runs holding her breast has got nothing pursuing her
This proverb simply implies that indecent behavior or desperation may diminish a woman’s worth or respect.
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13: A woman who delivers a baby in the market square has nothing to hide
This African proverb teaches women to remain discrete and not expose everything about themselves since if they do so, the consequences of their actions cannot be undone.
14: Woman without man is a field without seed
This proverb suggests that a woman without a partner may lack fulfillment or the potential for growth.
15: The man may be the head of the home, the wife is the heart
The proverb emphasizes the complementary roles of a husband and wife in creating a harmonious and complete household.
16: A wife is like a blanket; cover yourself with it, it irritates you; cast it aside, you feel the cold
This proverb illustrates the complex nature of marriage, where the presence of a wife may have challenges, but her absence brings discomfort.
17: A woman who wants a child does not sleep in her clothes
This West African proverb symbolizes the commitment of the African women towards their needs in life.
18: Marrying one wife is a young boy’s thinking
This is deep but here is its quick meaning: The notion of having only one wife is considered immature thinking, implying that wisdom comes with recognizing the complexities of relationships.
19: He who marries a beautiful woman owes death a debt
Meaning: Marrying a beautiful woman is often associated with challenges or risks, and death is humorously personified as a creditor.
20: A woman is not sent to collect a debt
This Agikuyu proverb addresses the dishonest nature of some women. In its loose translation, the woman sent to collect debt could as well keep the money or whatever is collected for herself.
21: You strike a woman you strike a rock
This South African proverb that was so common during the apartheid region talks of the endurance nature of women and their contribution to the society.
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22: Choose a wife to please yourself, not others
Meaning: The decision to marry should be based on personal happiness and compatibility, rather than societal expectations or external influences.
23: There is some peace from a barking dog, but never from a foolish woman
Meaning: The disturbances caused by a barking dog may eventually cease, but the troubles caused by a foolish woman may persist.
24: See the mother, and then marry the daughter
This is a marriage 101 proverb which simply means that observing the mother’s character and behavior can offer insights into the qualities of her daughter, aiding in the decision to marry.
25: A strong woman accepts both compliments and criticism graciously knowing that it takes both rain and sunshine for a flower to grow.
This is another African proverb that teaches African women to be strong to survive. They should not just lean on sides that they like or prefer but rather embrace everything that comes their way with grace.
26: He who follows a woman’s plan will drown himself
This Senegalese proverb is in tandem with the wide belief of how unreliable women can be sometimes. The setting of the society from which this proverb emanates portrays women as people who cannot be relied on.
27: The wizard never attacks the child of the loud-mouthed mother
Meaning: Those who are vocal and assertive are less likely to be targeted by negative forces or individuals.
28: A husband with a good wife will never be on the road without supplies
Meaning: A supportive and capable wife ensures that her husband is well-prepared and supplied for his journeys or challenges in life.
29: Should believe a woman? Better ally myself with death
This Benin proverb portrays women as people who can be untrustworthy in some cases. They are not to be believed especially on very sensitive matters.
30: Better a bad wife than an empty house
This proverb implies that having a wife, even if she is not ideal, is preferable to having no wife at all.
31: Getting only a beautiful woman is like planting a vine on the roadside everyone feeds on it
Meaning: Beauty alone may attract attention but may not necessarily bring fulfillment or lasting value.
You may also want to check: African Proverbs on Marriage
32: If friendship includes the wife, it will perish
This proverb from Cameroon is used to illustrate the destructive nature of women. Women have been blamed a lot in African societies for splitting friendships and ruining long-standing friendships.
33: Every woman is beautiful until she speaks
This We proverb is used to depict the inadequacy of women who might only look good from the inside but incomplete from the outside.
34: It is the women who make some men succeed where others fail
This African proverb is used to illustrate the significance of women as companions to their husbands and their overall success in life.
35: Words for women, action for men
This proverb suggests that while words may be used to describe or praise women, actions are what truly matter.
36: A woman is wearing trousers? What has she got hanging in there?
This funny African proverb is one of the many that remind women to uphold African cultural ties by avoiding the adoption of Western cultures that are not accepted in African society.
37: If you are threatened by a man, sleep at night; if it is a woman, stay awake
This Nigerian proverb demonstrates how vicious women can be sometimes. They are fond of making good their threats hence the fear people have towards them.
38. You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty
Meaning: Beauty alone may not sustain or provide for one’s needs; there is a necessity for practical skills and work to secure a livelihood.
39: A barren woman is like a leaking pot
This African proverb highlights the value the African society places on women as creators where women who are unable to bear children are regarded as less significant.
40: A woman listens only to the advice of a fool
This West African proverb is used to highlight how much women disregard good advice for wrong advice.
41: An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.
The African proverb above shows how old African women fear death, especially in their old days.
42: A woman is like a banana; one alone can turn the whole bunch rotten
This proverb symbolizes the bad influence some women can have on the people around them and the devastating bad ending.
43: A woman who uses her knowledge is better than a woman who uses her body
This African proverb addresses women who might want to cut corners in life using their bodies rather knowledge, which is time-tested.
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44. A woman does not know the value of her husband until she becomes a widow
The proverb reminds women that the true worth of a husband, often taken for granted, is fully recognized by a wife when he is no longer present.
45: Heaven is a black woman’s womb
This African proverb from Egypt reminds everyone of how important women are especially in passing over generations.
46: What a woman gets from prostitution she calls gifts from relatives
This proverb suggests that some women may engage in questionable activities and justify them as gifts or support from family members.
47: Don’t be a queen waiting for a king instead be a queen busy in her kingdom until the king arrives.
This African proverb reminds women to always have something they are doing rather than sit and wait for a man to come and sort out their problems.
48: The blacker the berry, the sweater the juice
This African proverb talks of the value that rests beneath black women. It encourages people to look beyond just the skin colour of black women.
49: The beans of a jealous woman overcook in the pot
The Proverb means that jealousy can lead to negative consequences, symbolized by the overcooking of beans in the pot.
50: A woman who apologizes never lacks a husband
This African proverb teaches women the act of submissiveness and apologizing whenever they are wrong for it is only by so doing that they make amends with their husbands and keep them.
51: A divorced woman does not refuse a man’s invitation to bed with her
This African proverb emphasizes on the value and importance of men in the lives of women. It reminds them of how desperate things can get right after they have left their marriages.
52: Smoke and a scolding woman drive one out of the house
Meaning: Constant nagging or quarrels can be as intolerable as smoke, leading someone to leave their home.
53: An unmarried woman is like cloth in the market and a married woman is a property of her husband.
This African proverb talks of the separation that exists in the African society between married women and unmarried women. According to the proverb, unmarried women are left out there to be tried out by everyone while married women are fully owned by their husbands protecting them from all manner predators.
54: A woman is a stranger until she gives birth to a child
Meaning: The true nature and purpose of a woman, especially in a familial context, are fully realized when she becomes a mother.
55: He that marries for love, dies miserably of anger
Meaning: Marrying solely for love without considering other practical aspects may lead to frustration and unhappiness.
56: A beautiful woman does not remain married for long
This African proverb is often used to portray how risky it can be to get married to a beautiful woman who is always chased by everyone tempting her out of her marriage.
57: Do not lend to a woman money then later go to bed with her
This African proverb is often used to illustrate how deceptive women can be sometimes often opting to pay for things they cannot pay with their money using their bodies.
58: Rivalry is a woman’s vomit. It can only be held down for a time. Sooner or later it pours out in the open
Meaning: Women’s rivalries or conflicts cannot be suppressed indefinitely; eventually, they come to the surface.
59: Women squander men’s money
This African proverb is often used to warn men against women who might not have any other business or interest in them rather their money.
60: Women, like weather, are unpredictable
The proverb means that women can act in ways that are hard to predict, similar to how the weather can change unexpectedly.
Gerald Wanjohi. Images of Women in African Proverbs. Retrieved from: https://shorturl.at/tyDN8
Anthonia A. Dickson & Mary Donald Mbosowo. African Proverbs about Women: Semantic Import and Impact in African Societies. Retrieved from: https://www.richtmann.org/journal/index.php/mjss/article/view/2682/2650
Catherine Mwihia. (2011). African Proverbs about Women. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing