By Mary Gesare with Ogova Ondego
Published November 14, 2008
It is just a matter of time, it appears, before urban East African women start walking naked in the streets; they cover too little these days. Many are wearing handkerchiefs in the name of miniskirts or trousers too tight you wonder how they ever got into them in the first place.
Mini-skirts and half-top blouses (tumbo-cuts) which leave the stomach bare are among the attire which impress women of today’s Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.
“If you are a woman and you don’t have a skirt, or tight, low waist trousers or blouse which shows the cleavage of your breasts or buttocks, exposes your crotch and G-String, navel and private parts, then you might be out of fashion,” says a 19-year-old girl in Nairobi.
Younger people in university and college are perhaps the worst offenders. Imagine a student going to class with a blouse showing her cleavage, half the stomach, and bare back. The skirt hem is above the knee and has four high slits at the front, behind and on the sides. Alternatively, they put on tight, low waist trousers which leave the G-string exposed and little to the male imagination. Thus dressed, such students not only make sure the front seats are reserved for them in the lecture rooms but also arrive late for maximum effect. Secondary school girls are catching up fast on this trend.
And this trend in dressing appears to be a blessing in disguise for people with ogling and voyeuristic tastes. They get free entertainment by ogling women in attires that show every curve of their anatomy: breasts, tummies, crotches, underwear, thighs, and bare buttocks. They do not have to buy pornographic publications or videos as their entertainment is readily available in public transport vehicles, on streets, neighbourhoods and in the work place.
So shocking is the dressing style that religious organisations and learning institutions are intervening with dress codes meant to bring sanity to women’s dressing in urban East Africa.
The first organisation to intervene with a ban on mini-skirts on its campuses was Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
Nsamba Baturo, then Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister, banned the wearing of miniskirts arguing that skimpily-dressed Kampala women confused male drivers leading to motor accidents.
As the media in Kenya were still making fun of Baturo’s declaration, Nairobi’s Neno Evangelism Centre forbade its female worshippers from using certain clothes. Those who failed to heed the new Taliban-like fashion police directive got the rude shock when they were sent back home to ‘dress properly’.
Now, Daystar University and University of Nairobi have developed dress codes for their students while media reports indicate that Strathmore University, also in Nairobi, denies entry on its campuses to any female in tight clothes and sleeveless tops.
Fred Mbogo, a lecturer at Moi University who also writes for ArtMatters.Info, writes that reports from Southern Sudan have it that certain authorities have linked the wearing of mini-skirts and tight trousers to a general lack of peace in that part of the country.
“What you wear,” says a Nairobi counselor, “is really who you are and how you feel about yourself. Clothing is one aspect of life which we are victims to and from whose chains we probably cannot escape. Fashion can whisper conscientiousness, stability, high moral standards or it can shout rebellion and discontent.”
Clothing sends out a message, a statement, to others about the wearer. These days there are some different trends of fashion coming in and out like every other second, you sleep and wake up and the trends have changed. Many of us want to blend in with the change of style calling it being stylish. But is it wrong to be in style? You may ask, not necessarily. Instead you shouldn’t be enslaved to style.
Some youth, and women, dress scantily to attract the opposite sex or appear older or younger than they really are. You may wonder if some women are wearing their small daughters’ clothing or maybe the material was scarce such that the tailor making that outfit had to stop there.
Walk around the streets of Nairobi and you might produce a documentary film on outfits. You might see wonders that you thought were only available in blue movies. Girls and women are almost walking naked on the streets.
July being a cold and rainy month in Nairobi, I was shocked to see adult women in the streets almost naked. Shouldn’t these women go with the weather or should we give this season a new name? I wondered. “Freeze and Shine” is what came to my mind.
Showing too much skin in the name of attracting attention of men is a bad idea as it is the same men who will judge you according to your outfits.
A college tutor in Kampala says, “It’s hard to think positive thoughts about women when you see the way they dress these days. Some women like being the center of attention, adorning themselves in bizarre, outrageous attire. However, they are merely calling attention to their immaturity not to mention embarrassing themselves by stressing their sexuality.”