IndexAfricaNigeria → Woodabe Fulani


Featured: Badjju, Nupe, Hausa, Kadara, Kagoro, Efik, Tiv, Kanuri, Ijaw/ Ijo, Bini, Marghi, Jekri, Lala, Kofjar, Ibibio, Woodabe Fulani, Borroro Fulani, Ibo [ Afikpo Igbo, Asaba Ibo], Rukuba, Irigwe, Yakoe, Igbira, Igala, Orri, Dakarkaki


The ratings for earliest childhood suggest the most permissive attitude regarding sex in the SCCS. The Shuwalbe Fulani practice infant betrothal between boy and girl (Wilson-Haffenden, 1927:p281-2; 1930:p129)[1]; the timing of consummation, does not become apparent, although there is “no subsequent ceremony”. Webster[2] argues:


“It is true that marriages are often arranged between cousins in infancy, or even before birth, and cousin marriages are preferred among many clans for reasons connected to property. […] On attainment of puberty, however, the girl can make her own choice- preferably among cousins, or at least within the clan. […] The consummation of marriages previously arranged usually takes place after the annual sharo or test of manhood, but marriages may take place at any time. Girls marry late, usually between eighteen and twenty-two”.


For the Schwalbe, “moral” instruction of boys is effected by the father (in contrast to the Keffi Yegomawa (settled) Fulani, were it is by the paternal uncle), and that of girls by mother (resp., paternal aunt). Stenning (1959:p148-9)[3] assumes a menarchal age of 16, the ideal age of marriage of 16, and the ideal age of first pregnancy of 17. Boys, who play freely with girls, leave their childhood behind at circumcision, scheduled at ages 9-10 (p156)[4].

After puberty (age 14) he learns about the flirtations of girls, and enters the gerewol courtship dance, in which his participation is “the index of his virility”. Eguchi (1973:69)[5] states that girls are usually married at ages 12 to 14; preparations, including instructions, take place at the soro initiation. For the Schwalbe, “moral” instruction of boys is effected by the father (in contrast to the Keffi Yegomawa (settled) Fulani, were it is by the paternal uncle), and that of girls by mother (resp., paternal aunt). Riesman (1974)[6] sketched the principles of Fulani freedom but is hardly specific about sexual liberties for children. Dupire (1962:p184)[7]: “Frères et soeurs donnent libre course dans leurs amusements aux parodies et aux moqueries, mais vers l’âge de six ans ils apprennent que les jeux sexuels autorisé avec d’autres enfants sont “honteux” entre eux”. Dupire (1960:p58)[8] further notes that social morality is instilled in girls from age four to five, including incest taboo in sex play. Hopen (1958:p71)[9] indicated that, although girls and women expected to adhere to a stricter code of sexual morality than men and boys, case histories make it clear that “a girl is permitted, without loss of status, to engage in sexual play in which she hopes to maintain technical virginity”, perhaps in contrast to earlier days. Even boys of 5 and 6 are “quite aware, owing to the influence of youths and adults”, that they will one day marry”; they also build camps and play marriage.














Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Wilson-Haffenden, J. R. (1927) Ethnological Notes on the Shuwalbe Group of the Borroro Fulani in the Kurafi District of Keffi Emirate, Northern Nigeria, J Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 57:275-93

[2]Webster, G. W. (1931) Customs and Beliefs of the Fulani: Notes Collected During 24 Years' Residence in Northern Nigeria, Man 31:238-44

[3] Stenning, D. J. (1959) Savannah Nomads. London: OxfordUniversity Press

[4] “De besnijdenis gebeurt tussen de leeftijd van 3 tot 8 jaar en wordt zonder enig vorm van ceremonie of specifieke voorschriften uitgevoerd. Volgens Dupire is dit omdat de besnijdenis dient te gebeuren in het droogseizoen, zodat een snelle genezing verzekerd is. Gedurende deze periode zijn de families te zeer verspreid om deze gebeurtenis ceremonieel te omkaderen. (Dupire 1996:178). De besnijdenissen worden uitgevoerd door een lid van een andere etnische groep, zoals de Haussa, die hierin gespecialiseerd is en de verschillende kampementen bezoekt”. Van Nieuwerburgh, J. (2001-2) De ceremoniele dansen van de Wodaabe nomaden uit Niger. Een onderzoek naar de gelaatsbeschilderingen. Scriptie voorgelegd aan de Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, voor het behalen van de graad van Licentiaat in de Kunstwetenschappen, richting Etnische Kunst, Universiteit Gent []

[5] Eguchi, M. J. (1973) Aspects of the life style and culture of women in the Fulbe districts of Maroua, Kyoto Univ Afr Stud 8:17-92

[6] Riesman, P. (1974) Societé et Liberté chez les Peul Djelgobe de Haute-Volta. Paris: Mouton

[7] Dupire, M. (1962) Peuls Nomades. Doct. Diss., Paris

[8] Dupire, M. (1960) Situation de la femme dans une société pastorale (Peul woDaBe, nomades du niger), in Paulme, D. Ed.) Femmes d’Afrique Noire. Paris : Mouton & Co, p51-91

[9] Hopen, C. E. (1958) The Pastoral Fulbe Family in Gwandu. London: Oxford University Press