Mon nyol ku mon wadi. (Alur)
Wanawake wanazaa na wanawake wengine. (Swahili)
Les femmes accouchent avec d’autres femmes. (French)
Women give birth with other women. (English)
Background, Explanation, History and Everyday Use
The Alur is a Nilotic ethnic group found in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda. The Alur traditionally receive their education from elders and peers. Boys accompany their fathers in different activities related to men such as farming, hunting, fishing, basket-making, etc. while girls assist their mothers in domestic works like cooking, washing, cleaning, harvesting, etc. During these activities people learn by doing. Another context of learning is in the peer group (men to men, women to women, boys to boys, girls to girls, youth to youth, children to children, etc.). For these different social activities such as dance, funeral, play, and work, etc., people are suppose to acquire skills, knowledge, wisdom and experience.
Women have also a special life experience which is giving birth. Men (even spouses) are prohibited to be present where women are giving birth. Participation in the event or assistance to the woman delivering is allowed to women only. Giving birth is therefore an activity where women absolutely need other women. Generally older women become expert in assisting others women in their delivery process from their own experience or from the assistance they have provided to other women. Thus women are inspired in giving birth when they observe other women giving birth. They give birth successfully because of the assistance of other women who are experienced in giving birth. They get inspired for their own further deliveries as they watch or assist women who are giving birth. Overall women get wisdom from other women.
This proverb helps people to understand the importance of peers as in some contexts the right response to a particular need cannot come from any other source. It is also an interpretation to see that for some issues only a woman can provide the right help to another woman; thus women need to be respected and considered in the society. In a broad sense it is an invitation for mutual assistance.
This proverb can be translated in Lingala (DRC) as: Basi babotaka na basi basusu.
The Bible encourages interaction, collaboration, and cooperation. Emphasis is given on mutual love, mutual assistance, mutual edification, etc. as we can see in the following verses:
But the most similar verse is that of Proverbs 27: 17 that says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. We need each other to grow in our faith. Christian cannot grow in isolation. This is what is emphasized in the Book of Hebrew 10: 25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
This proverb is presented to encourage communalism and cooperation for mutual edification and enrichment. Within the church context, it is important to acknowledge the gifts of each one and to make use of it for the edification of the Body of Christ (Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:11, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28). The gospel should also be inculturated in Africa so that each context can exploit to the maximum what it has and root the Gospel in the culture and context of each social group.
For related Alur proverbs see Insights from Proverbs of the Alur in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Collected and interpreted in French and English by George Pirwoth Atido
Nairobi, Kenya: Privately Printed. September, 2011. This is one booklet in the series of Endangered African Proverbs Collections. It is posted as an eBook on our website at: http://afriprov.org/index.php/resources/e-books.html
George Pirwoth Atido
Africa International University
Centre for World Christianity
P.O. Box 24686, Karen
00502 Nairobi, Kenya
Université Shalom de Bunia
P.O Box 304
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Photographs provided by:
Professor Cephas Yao Agbemenu
Department of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 43844