Generally, a big deal should not be made when a girl sees her first period (menarche). It’s just another stage of life she has entered and life goes on after that, but that is not the case in some African countries. Weeks of celebration take place in response to a young girl reaching puberty and seeing her first period and eggs play a key role in that.
Over the years, many families in Ghana, West Africa, have abandoned the puberty initiation rites for young girls who start to menstruate. Urbanization simply does not permit the act and the hustling and bustling of city life does not permit the full-blown processions that would take place in their hometowns otherwise.
In improvising, mothers give their daughters eggs when they first see their periods. After the mother, aunties and grandmothers who hear of the news do same; they gift the young girl eggs.
When I saw my menarche, I recall my mother smiling and shaking her head and saying the words “you know what this means right?” And I did know what it meant; any sexual contact with a man and I would be pregnant (although she didn’t quite put it directly like that). As young as I was, I could tell that all the women in my family were extremely excited and I wondered why after all it was just blood.
But, that would not be the only thing that would surprise me, subsequently, my maternal aunts found out and soon and I was arriving home to baskets and crates of eggs waiting for me. The little girl in me was excited about owning the abundance of eggs that filled my mother’s fridge, but my curiosity begged to know why on earth all of a sudden I was being gifted eggs. So I asked.
Per the culture of Akans and in this case, the Fantes, it is believed that when a girl reaches puberty and has her first period, preparations must begin to sustain her fertility. Since her eggs are proof of her fertility, she is given eggs to sort of increase her fertile eggs. While that does not entirely make so much sense for some, that is culture.
Simply put, the eggs are a goodwill gesture or blessing meant to call for fertility for the young girl so when the time to conceive arrives, she has no difficulty with fertility problems.
When a girl receives the eggs like this there’s no wrong way of eating it. It could be fried, boiled or even eaten raw if she takes a liking to that. The important thing here is, she’s been given goodwill of being fertile.
It is a significant event when a young girl gets her first period since it marks the completion of her transformation into a woman. In other tribes, mothers typically boil an egg and offer it to the daughter to consume whole, particularly the Akan. If you chew on an egg, which represents fertility, you are said to become barren.
Away from that, there are cultural rites of passages that involve the use of eggs to wish not just fertility for the young girl, but to ensure that she stays a virgin until marriage.
Among the Akan and the Krobo tribes in Ghana, puberty rites of passage are done for young girls when they see their first period. The purpose is to usher them into adulthood and show to the whole town that such girls were fit for marriage as they could conceive now.
During the puberty rites like the Bragoro for the Akans and the Dipo for the Krobos, the young girls are made to eat boiled eggs, but this time they must be careful not to bite into the eggs. The egg must be swallowed whole. Biting into the eggs signifies killing one’s potential babies.
To sum it up, whether a young girl passes through a full-blown puberty rite of passage or not, one thing is for sure, there will be the eating of eggs. Eggs are a symbol of fertility among these West African tribes.