For International Women’s Day, on March 8, the Ministry of Education granted female teachers and pupils countrywide one day to “express themselves” through their hair. In keeping with the theme for International Women’s Day 2022- “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow with campaign theme being #BreakTheBias”. , the MOE announced that they would be relaxing rules around what are considered “acceptable” hairstyle choices.
In a press release, the Ministry said that “On that day, girls can come to school wearing their loose unsecured hair, afros, braids, curls, whatever style, if any, that makes them feel most beautiful and confident and purposeful. Until school rules change, and we are examining some of those with a view to making practical changes, styles should not include permanent or semi-permanent changes that would breach said rules the day after this celebration.”
However, this initiative from the Education Ministry did not sit well many. Some pointed out that in modern Guyana, there is no place for archaic and colonial laws governing the country’s learners hair.
In unconfirmed reports, Nightly News has been told that over the years that in some schools, male learners with long hair are often forced to cut their hair, lest they be banned from attending their respective school.
Girls too, especially those with natural hair, face a similar trend. With their back against the wall; many alleged that they were forced to perm their hair to feel accepted or to have hairstyles deemed “neat”.
One commenter on the Ministry’s Facebook post said “Is this for one day or are we permanently dismantling patriachal and colonial norms everyday after 8 March?”
While another commented “How are we breaking this bias with one day and then back to square one the next day. Please re-think these hair rules. It’s 2022 and daughter cannot wear her kinky hair in Puffs to school as stated in the school’s rule book.”
Another called on the Ministry of Education to rethink the rules that govern students hairstyles in the education system. She said “No. This is not good enough. In fact, it’s an insult. We don’t need ONE day off from these oppressive, discriminatory rules that have no proven positive impact on learning, but instead stifle creativity and self-expression. IWD is about more than a hashtag. There is an opportunity here for real change, rather than a smoke screen for points. We deserve better than this. I’m interested in these consultations that are taking place to permanently abolish these draconian rules. Who is being consulted and having these conversations on our behalf? Because clearly, they missed the mark with this bandaid idea. As a black girl with natural hair, relaxer burn trauma and good CXC grades (since that is what determines worth apparently), I, and every other citizen affected by these rules, should have a say. And we are saying THIS IS NOT IT!”
In the Ministry’s post it was noted that “In today’s world where women and girls are more active than ever in leadership, innovation and tearing down barriers; there is still a silent stronghold of prejudice that exists, one that seems so innocuous since we all have it; but once weaponized divides from within and is used as a form social control. The head of hair the gendered female is born with has become a symbol of status and achievement, ease of social acceptance, beauty or lack thereof. Curly, kinky, wavy, or straight, too short, too long, too thick, too thin; there is always a socially derived mechanism around our hair consciously and unconsciously to sift and sort us as women and girls into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘acceptable’ and not, a tool used to further distract from activating our power. “