Famous Sayings: #1 — ‘It Takes a Village…’

March 13, 2016

“It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.”

it takes a village, to raise a child, nigeria, famous sayings
My map-making skills need quite a bit of work, but this was an excuse to work in Illustrator!

While this is certainly not the oldest saying, it one of the first sayings I can think of. I’m sure many of us have heard this as it is often repeated and thus ubiquitous. In fact, all or part of the saying has been used in the titles of various books (including Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1996 literary offering).

Where Is The Origin of the Saying?

From my research, this appears to be an African proverb, specifically spoken in Igbo and Yoruba in Nigeria. There are variations of this proverb in other African nations. In Tanzania, the Sukuma changed it to “One knee does not bring up a child.” In Swahili, the proverb sounds like “One hand does not nurse a child.”

Here’s more on the first two groups I mentioned. The Igbo (pronounced EE-bo) are concentrated mainly along the southeastern region of Nigeria and we estimated to be numbered around some 20 million near the beginning of the 21st century. They tend to live in various villages yet share a common language. The Yoruba are one of the three largest ethnic groups of Nigeria and are concentrated in the southwestern part of the country and Benin. Many African-Americans have traced their lineage to the Yoruba. Current-day Yoruba generally live in large city-groups as opposed to villages.

What Does the Saying Really Mean?

Upon some thought it should be easy to decipher the meaning. Usually when we talk about villages, we are referring to those that are built by extended families. Where does an extended family come in? If a child is blessed with older siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents and cousins —they will naturally take part in the child’s rearing. Children are seen as a blessing for the village and it is thus the responsibility of their elders to take part in raising them.

Why Is This Saying Still Relevant Today?

In modern times, of course this alludes to the number of influences a child can have and on multiple levels.

You might immediately think of role models. While one might agree or disagree with Charles Barkley’s assertion that he is not a role model, the fact is children look up to adults and mimic their behaviors. So, you may not seek to influence a child — let alone another person’s child — but what you do and say may be seen and heard by children.

Most importantly, communities have an active role in rearing children. What do we all need? Food, shelter, water, clothing, and hygiene should come to mind. (That last part includes decent health and dental care. I don’t care what some people say. Those things should be rights!) We also need education and supervision. Additionally, we all need love and friendship. These things a vital for children and they should work together for a child to be raised properly and we will still need these to varying degrees once we grow up. What’s more is that multiple adults may be responsible on each level.

Now, it is understood that a child’s parents or guardians will be primarily responsible for seeing that a child will get everything he/she needs. Parents should be the first to provide for their children, feeding them, clothing them and putting roofs over their heads. Parents should also supervise their children and take part in their education.

Modern parents also need assistance. They may need to work in order to provide for their families or otherwise take part in their communities. Furthermore, children need to have enough freedom to socialize with others and learn what it means to be a productive member of society. Therefore, parents can’t watch their children 24/7. Teachers, babysitters, and officers of the law could fill in here to help with a child’s education, supervision, and safety. (The operative word is “help.”)

What the Adage Doesn’t Mean

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a village or community should raise a child in lieu of the child’s living parents — outside of some special circumstances.

It also should be said that not just any adult has the authority to discipline a child. That’s a real touchy subject, especially when it comes to corporal punishment.

I think I’ll stop here as that is another subject entirely.

So, how did I do? Admittedly, it was quite fun to work on this post and made the image. I gotta get started on the post for next Sunday, and I have just the saying in mind.

P.S.: This is off-topic, but let it be known that I hate Daylight Saving Time with a passion.


10 thoughts on “Famous Sayings: #1 — ‘It Takes a Village…’

  1. I am not a big fan of daylight saving time either. Why is it dark when I now wake up and we are supposed to be having more daytime? As far as your post , how do you think our xenophobic , front running Republican candidates for President feel about this issue?


    1. It’s entirely too early for DST, too. And it’s ironic that we Americans had it extended as part of some “energy saving” bill when you can see that some parts of Indiana had higher electric bills as a result. A longer DST does increase electric bills because people who have to wake up earlier will be more likely to use lights when they probably would have used sunlight otherwise.

      On Topic: They might repeat the saying while at the same time supporting policies that contradict it. Or they might just say that people need to mind their own business. (The irony.)

      These are politicians.They often say what will get them the most votes. Currently, the Republican Party has moved to the hard right and compromise is seen as suicide. So, they try to appeal to that type of voter base. And as a result, some decent candidates in the party have been overlooked or just skipped the nominating process entirely.


    1. I really loathe DST, despite the light, and I would call myself a morning person. For one thing, it lasts entirely too long. March is just too early for it to start and November is too late for it to end. I could accept it more when it started at the end of April and the beginning of October. Secondly, it messes with my internal clock as I essentially lose an hour. Third and most important, there are upticks in car accidents, occupational accidents, and heart attacks at the beginning of DST. While it is nice to gain back that hour later on, it doesn’t offset the effects from earlier in the year. Don’t want to be a downer, but…

      And the fact that you used the saying is further proof that it’s ubiquitous. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Blogs of the Week | According To Greta

  3. I don’t even know how I missed this… I was randomly scrolling through my reader and next thing I’m seeing the map of Nigeria LOL.

    I heard this saying over and over again in my teenage years…I grew up in Nigeria!!

    You should know that back in the day, extended family rights usually extended to neighbours hahaha…my mum told me stories of how her neighbours were quick to give her a good spanking if she was caught doing anything her parents would not be proud of.

    Unfortunately a lot of us ’21st century children’ have had to grow up in these ‘modern times’ – gone is the village life our parents lived, or communal village living. It therefore took our parents to train us as opposed to the proverbial village…

    I enjoyed this and frankly very impressed with your research…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! ❤

      Yes, I do know that even neighbors have been responsible for disciplining children. This was true over 50 years ago and even in the United, but there was eventually a movement against spanking. I’m mixed on the whole thing, to be quite honest.

      I wanted to get the facts straight, so I did a number of searches. A few sources contained the information on the origins of this saying, and that includes some history behind the languages. I’m surprised that I was ultimately pointed towards Nigeria when I wasn’t on my initial search. I have to remember that the word “origin” or any slight variation would be an important keyword to use in order to find the right information.

      This took some time to do but it was very fun. 🙂


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