Creating Your Village: Why We Must Foster Friendships with Older Women

by Delilah Johnson

We've all heard the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." But have you ever thought of what it takes to raise a woman?

In this day and age, black girls are coming into womanhood with little support. There are no rites of passage to provide her with guidance as to what a woman is or what exactly a woman does; and there are few hard and fast rules passed on to her beyond "get a job" and "only depend on yourself." In Latino cultures, girls have their quinceañera to mark their entry into womanhood. Jewish girls have their Bat Mitzvah and Middle Eastern girls have their hafla.

What does the black American girl child have?

Every culture and tribe on the earth has to continue to expand and update old beliefs, customs, and traditions in order to meet the needs of its members. As an African-American woman now in her late 20s, I've come to realize that every woman can benefit from having a trusted circle of elder women around her.

This female village acts as a source of strength to guide her through the tough times and celebrate her during the good ones. These older women bring knowledge, history, and experience that cannot be found in a book. In Black America, the wisdom and the usefulness of the elders have come into question as grandmothers get younger and are even competing with women decades younger than them for jobs, resources, and men. Please don't let that deter you. The older woman you pass by at the bus stop while heading to work or the one you run into while trying to pick up dinner from the grocery store is an untapped source of wisdom in our community, and I urge young women to actively seek them out to begin creating their personal village.

I'll tell you what creating a village did for me.

Creating a village brought me into close companionship with women who are in their 30s, 40s, and beyond. Having access to such an eclectic mix of age groups helped me to see far beyond my short 28 years on this planet and often provided me with a "big picture" view of life and its many challenges. These women are always up to sharing lessons they've learned over the years, so that I don't have to touch the stove to see that it's hot. And even when I do still touch the stove (as we stubborn women are prone to do), they are there to put ice on the wound, cry with me, and continue loving on me anyway.

There's Leah, who is in her 40s and is a bonafide expert on all things that have to do with self-love, passion, and romance. It was her sage wisdom that helped me to forgive an ex-boyfriend who had hurt me deeply. Through her encouragement and experience, I was able to release the pain surrounding the break-up and instead, cherish the many ways he had helped me to grow into a better, more confident woman. She helped me transition from victim to conqueror.

There's Terrie, the deeply religious woman who always has a word from the Bible for me and who is the epitome of a woman that "waited on God." In her 50s, she is healthy, fit, and active; she does Zumba twice a week and is always out and about on the town with her husband. Her social life is more jam-packed than most women I know in their twenties! She has taught me how important it is to enjoy every second of life, growing eternally younger with each adventure.

There's Nyjiela, in her 30s, who has deeply impacted how I see work. She has motivated me to have a better relationship with money. Because of her unique background, she works like someone who just arrived in this country although she was raised here most of her life. She is the queen of inventing hustles, side hustles, and a baby hustle to the side hustle! She taught me the power of journaling and positive affirmations. She also introduced me to colonics. Ha!

I could go on and on, but you get the point. I am the confident, grounded woman I am today because of this village I created. And you can create yours too! Having the friendship, love, and loyalty of a tribe of older women as elders around you can't hurt. It can only make you a better.

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." —African proverb

Photo: Shutterstock

Delilah Johnson graduated from DePaul University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and communications. She spends her spare time trying to figure out how to smuggle herself into more countries.

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