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It Takes a Village (To Raise a Child) from African perspective

(Last Updated On: March 4, 2018)

#AfricanProverb | #ItTakesAVillage

When I was younger I personally heard my grandmother say “Enikan lo n bimo, igba owo lo n woo” meaning, one person gives birth to a baby, but the entire community looks after him.

But I never knew what the intelligent old woman was saying until I heard Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede lately encouraging Nigerian youths to make their contribution towards building their immediate community, using the hashtag #ItTakesAVillage.

Imoukhuede is the Presidential aid on Job Creation in Nigeria, who supervises the implementation of Federal Governments job initiative programme, N-power.

There are still divergent views about the origin of “It Takes A Village”, but our African forefathers used related proverbs before colonialism, it has African origin.

There are different African proverbs which translate to It Takes A Villageto raise a child. Some of them include:

“It Takes A Village” from Igbo perspective

In Igbo Language (Southern Nigeria) there is a proverb that says, “Otu onye anaghi azu nwa” which translates to, One person does not raise a child.
Closely related to the above is: Nwa bu nwa oha meaning The child is the child of the community.

“It Takes A Village” from Kijita perspective

In Kijita (Wajita: Mara Region, Tanzania) there is a proverb which says “Omwana ni wa bhone,” meaning regardless of a child’s biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community.

From Swahili perspective

In Swahili (South Africa), the proverb “Asiye funzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu” approximates to the same.

In Lunyoro (Bunyoro, a kingdom in western Uganda) there is a proverb that says “Omwana takulila nju emoi,” whose literal translation is ‘A child does not grow up only in a single home.’

“It Takes A Village” from Yoruba perspective

In Yoruba Language (Western Nigeria) there is a proverb that says, “Enikan lo n bimo, igba oju lo n woo,” or ” Enikan lo n bimo, igba owo lo n woo” meaning, Only one person gives birth to a baby, but the entire community looks after the child.

From Bahaya perspective

In Kihaya (Bahaya, Tanzania) there is a saying, “Omwana taba womoi“, which translates as A child belongs not to one parent or home.

Away from African perspective, individuals have published books on the subject matter; Jane Cowen-Fletcher published It Takes a Village in 1994.

Another one published in 1996 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us,” top the New York Times Best Seller List, and by the year 2000 it sold 450,000 copies in hardcover and another 200,000 in paperback.

Infobase Take:

The proverb, It takes a village to raise a child” means it is not possible for the parents to unilaterally raise a child. The child has friends he relates with in the community, in this process parents of his friends and other elders in the community correct him whenever he does things wrong.

Elders in the village make sure that children do things in accordance with the stipulated ethics, tradition and custom of the society.

For instance, it was rudeness to stand head to head with an elder while you great him in the Yoruba land in the olden days. Even when one made the mistake, the elder would not hesitate to tell you, “dobale” i.e prostrate!

It seems western education has taken that away. I can’t, personally, remember the last time my both hands touched the ground while greeting an elder.

In this regard, a “child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child,” afriprov.org says.

A village where a child grows up was a custodian and guardian. The village makes sure that a child within the neighborhood is safe irrespective of his parents.

That is one of the reasons a successful child is seen as the glory of the entire community, not just of his family.

Beyond the village is the school our children attend to acquire formal education. At school they are taught morals and other teachings that will make them useful for themselves and the society at large.

It takes a village to raise a child means that parents cannot raise a child in isolation without the involvement of the village and society.

Over to you:

What is It takes a village to raise a child in your local dialect?

References:

  1. African Proverb of the Month
  2. Get Outside to Play
  3. Marias Message
  4. New York Times Best Seller List

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