(JollofNews) – The Gambia’s government has recinded a controversial ban on female employees from leaving their hair uncovered at work.
As reported in your JollofNews last week, barely a month after declaring his country an Islamic republic, President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, who cultivates the image of a practising Muslim and is often seen holding a Qur’an and prayer beads, issued a directive urging female civil servants to cover their hair during working hours.
“This is to inform you that an executive directive has been issued that all female staff within the government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours effective December 31, 2015. Female staff are urged to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair,” a leaked memo from the country’s Personel Management Office (PMO) stated.
But in a surprised announcement on Wednesday, a statement from the Office of the President read on state television, GRTS, said: “The directive for women to cover their hair in all public offices had nothing to do with religion. Women are the president’s best friends. They are his sisters and he is here for their wellbeing and happiness at all times. That being said, this decision that makes them unhappy has been lifted.”
Some 90 per cent of Gambians are Muslim and while many Muslim scholars believe that Islam requires Muslim women to cover their hair in public, the requirement is not strictly adhered to in the Gambia.
When Mr Jammeh declared the Gambia an Islamic republic, he said the move was in line with the country’s “religious identity and values”.
However, critics said the declaration was intended to deflect attention from the poor state of the economy, including the rise in the price of basic commodities.