Gambia: Gambian women speak out against govt head tie directive

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - A Gambian government directive requiring female civil servants to cover their hair during working hours hasn't gone down well with many women in the republic on the West African coast whose President Yahya Jammeh has declared an Islamic State.

“Female staff are urged to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair," said a government circular, issued on 4 January 2016, stating that according to an executive directive, all female staff within the government ministries, departments and agencies were no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours effective 31 December 2015.

“All heads of department and agencies are urgently advised to implement this directive and bring it to the attention of their female staff within their line departments and agencies. All are strictly advised to adhere to this new directive," said the circular.

Some women in the hairdressing business have raised fears that the directive threatened their main source of income because their clientele consisted mostly female civil servants.

“Most of our customers are government workers and they may not prefer to dress their hair only for the home but also for work,” a beauty salon owner in Serrekunda town told PANA Tuesday.  

Another self-employed lady said: “I am worried. This is a source of living for me. I pay for my food, rent and children's education -- which I think is also important, the rights of the children to be educated. I will just suggest or beg for the directive to be revoked.”

A beauty salon owner, Sukai Jallow, who sells assorted beauty material, lamented that her business was also likely to be affected.

For the betterment of business like hers where most customers are women, she pleaded for withdrawal of the regulation requiring women to put on head ties.

“Putting on a head tie or veil is good for Muslim women as prescribed by their religion, but in the other way round, Christians should be considered,” she said.

Oumie Camara, a customer who was pleating her hair at a salon in Tabokoto, said: “For me, the only thing I have to say is let it (directive) be checked and interpreted very well because it is favouring others and also affecting others.

“In this modern world we are today, especially in The Gambia which is a Muslim majority country but not an Islamic state, if such laws are to be implemented I think our Christian brothers and sisters should be considered.”
-0- PANA MSS/AR 12Jan2016

12 january 2016 19:29:14

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