by Lily Rashida
Recently, there was a social media storm over a ”tight” skirt worn by a Kenyan policewoman who was on duty, her name is Linda Okello. This is not the first time that a police uniform is hitting the headlines in Kenya. Linda Okello’s case is merely one of the numerous cases of gender inequality and the marginalisation of women in Africa.
First, society posits that some jobs are ‘’not appropriate’’ for a woman and so she needs to compromise and struggle to get herself within the confines of a job that is seen to be ‘’appropriate’’ for her. Then when she successfully does, there are still uniforms which are not ‘’appropriate’’ for her to wear? And of course, who is said to suffer if she does not ‘obey these rules’? Her male counterparts of course; so yet again men play the victims of another case of gender inequality.
If you’re still wondering if Linda’s case is really a case of oppression and gender inequality, then listen to the twist in the story; After Linda’s police uniform is labelled ‘’too tight’’ and she is subjected to reveal to the whole world that she has just gained weight and that is why her skirt is ‘’too tight’’, her boss – James Magura (who is a man, incase you didn’t notice) picks out a new uniform for this adult female and gives orders on what exactly she’ll wear to work- a pair of baggy and tawdry trousers, lest she faces disciplinary action. Now, isn’t it very clear that Linda Okello is being classified as an object and not a person? (In the 21st century)
The peak of this oppression is that last year in Kenya, the use of ‘’big’’ earrings and lipstick among female officers were termed ‘’unprofessional’’? This year, it’s the wearing of a skirt labelled ‘’too tight’’ that has attracted disciplinary measures? Next year, we wonder what it would be.
Year after year, women are made to face this monster of oppression and gender inequality in diverse forms? Isn’t it hypocrisy that a woman is labelled ‘’unprofessional’’ for wearing jewellry and lipstick to work, while her male counterpart who ogles over her well-shaped lips and pretty face (instead of attending to his national call of duty) is labelled the victim? Isn’t it an act of slavery to compel an adult female to wear baggy clothes because her boss at work won’t be able to concentrate on keeping the citizens safe, due to the ‘’weapon of mass destruction’’ she has hidden under her skirt?
As Africans, we are ”supposed” to be conservative in nature but there is a thin line between conservatism and bondage. The former is usually borne out of one’s will and doesn’t interfere with one’s rights, while the latter is always a case of one’s rights being trampled upon. When people are no longer free to live their lives because God created them as women, then it becomes a call for another long walk to freedom.