ANDILE SITHOLE THOUSANDS of locals gathered at eMsengeni area in eNgome outside Greytown on Sunday, April 1 for the traditional umemulo ceremony — a traditional ritual celebrating a young girl’s journey into womanhood and signifies that the girl is matured and ready for marriage.The Sithole family held the ceremony for their three daughters, Sphindile, Gqu and Nda Sithole to honour them for passing the stage of puberty.Scores of women who attended the ceremony ululated and danced outside the kraal and congratulated the girls for being virgins. Their father Mnanazana Sithole slaughtered three cows for each daughter to thank the Sithole ancestors for protecting his daughters and asked for the blessings from the ancestors.“I thank God for protecting my family all the time. This ceremony would not have been a success if it wasn’t the will of God. I also thank my relatives, family members and community for supporting me during the ceremony,” Sithole said.The ritual is also a sign to honour girls for respecting their bodies and following parents’ teachings. Keeper of traditional Zulu folklore and traditional healer Elliot Ndlovu said the ritual is performed for virgins.“The purpose behind this ritual is to honour the girl for obeying her parents’ teachings from her early age. The ritual also indicates that the girl has transitioned from a child into an adult woman who can now get married. There is another ceremony that is called umhlonyane, a ritual performed for a girl when she reaches puberty stage usually between the ages of 16 to 18. The family slaughters a goat for the girl and older women advise her how to behave when she reaches puberty stage. However, unlike umemulo, this ritual does not mean that the girl is ready for marriage,” Ndlovu said.Zulu warriors carrying knobkerries, sticks and shields sang traditional songs and danced inside the kraal. According to the elders of the family, the presence of the warriors at the ceremony signifies that the girl is truly a virgin.