Growing up it was usual to see Ugandan girls cut their hair. I was one of them. I dreaded it. Everytime strands of my hair fell to the floor at the barbers shop I felt horrid. I could not wait to grow old enough to grow my hair.
This is the common practice here at home. In schools you find most black girls cutting their hair short. The school administration tells us that our hair is shabby, untidy and not good enough to be kept.
This is a logic that was introduced in 1900 when the colonialists introduced schooling to the native black people in Uganda. These white colonialists viewed our hair as a mess that needed cleaning up for neatness and tidyness. This is mainly because of the texture and kink of our natural African hair. They then ordered that the natives cut their hair short to maintain neatness. Its a shame upon our elders that they still adhere to this rule. To the same rule that discriminated us as black people. The colonialist thought of our nature as inappropriate and acknowleged theirs as appropriate and superior. It is unfortunate that even after we conqured colonialism we still want to view aspects of our nature through their standards. Our elders and leaders are fond of blaming us for following western culture and yet it is them that are still enslaved in the white mans perception of their nature. The white man called our hair shabby and untidy and you do too.
Other than tidyness, the school administrators claim girls having hair in school could result to poor perfomance in school. Their explanation being that girls would spend hours beautifying their hair instead of doing school work. The best girls schools keep their natural hair in Uganda. Gayaza high school being one of them. This notion comes from the mentality that beauty can not run with brains, a common mentality in society. I myself studied in a school where I could keep my hair in highschool and the last thing that ever distracted girls was their hair. It was part of our bodies. We were used to our hair. It was not enough to distract us. We had alot of time during the weekend to work on it. And that took no time as girls where care free with their hair. We washed it often and held it in a ponytail while in school uniform. It would go unnoticed while doing schoolwork. The mentality of society that beauty makes a girl unintelligent is backward. My hair is not my brain. Its not my character. Its part of my femininity.
School administrators say that a black girls hair will make her more beautiful thus making her prone to defilers. This is the most ignorant statement made about rape and defilement. A woman is prone to rape irregadless of the state of her hair or her dresscode. Depriving girls of their freedom and right to their bodies does not protect them from the rapist. It instead discriminates them. A rapist is not a man who has appreciated a womans beauty. Its a man who intends violence towards a woman, and that has nothing to do with the beauty of a woman and to say so is to label all men potential rapists which i disagree with. It is like saying not wearing a bulletproof vest will attract a murderer to shoot you. A person is not allowed to rape a woman whether she has hair or not irregardless of her dresscode. And what proves that with shaved heads men wont defile girls?
To make such ignorant statements is to blame women for rape and defilement. Its to treat the female anatomy as an object not a person. Normal men do not rape or defile girls. Criminals do. And they dont need a shaved head or a long dress to stop them, they need justice, they need our leaders to see that a girls anatomy is not the problem but the rapists mentality is. My hair is not a sex object. Neither is my body. I am not an attraction to rape. The rapist is the problem not my hair.
More people have different reasons as to why black Ugandan girls should not keep their hair.
I say Black because under the same cicumstances mentioned above, girls of indian decent, biracial, or asian decent can keep their hair. Its clear that the negativity surrounds the black girls hair. Society teaches the black girl to hate her natural hair. To loose confidence in it. To loose esteem for it. Ive heard women make fun of other women wearing their hair natural. Women resort to all sorts of chemicals to relax their hair so as its straighter. Wearing weaves to cover our natural hair. This is what years of shaming girls hair looks like.
Why do you teach us to be ashamed of our hair and then point fingers at us for adopting western culture. The same western culture that is now promoting this freedom. Havent you taught us all our lives that our beauty standards are not as “standard ” as theirs by allowing them to have their natural hair in our schools but not us. By telling us to straighten our hair like their natural texture. By accepting their natural hair before accepting ours?
I choose my natural hair. And I support black Ugandan girls to do so too. Our hair is not shabby. Its kinky. Nappy. Wooly.
Our hair is not a distraction its part of our image and our femininity. Its part of our identity as black women of Uganda.
May our sisters and daughters love their hair. May they have authority over their image. May they be proud of the colour of their skin and the texture of their hair for we Black Ugandan women are beautiful in our natural form.