Dress the way you want to be addressed

By Jane Babirye
On 9 August 2023 at 01:17

The decision made by the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (RCHA) to recommend legislation on the way people dress in the country as a means of preserving Rwandan culture and decency has sparked mixed feelings, with some supporting it and others against it.

Among those in support are the youth, particularly girls, who argue that they buy their clothes with their own money and shouldn’t be told what is decent or not. They express sentiments like, "If they don’t like how we dress, let them not look at us," and "We are in the dot.com era, not the 1900s."

But what exactly is considered decent or indecent? In my opinion, it comes down to clothing that covers the private parts. For many, this means anything above knee-length.

While some may criticize this view, I believe in speaking the truth and being free from pretense. It is crucial to address the fact that excessive dressing in certain ways has become an issue. As the saying goes, "Too much of anything is always bad."

It is essential to understand that the elders proposing such legislation are not doing it to cause harm but out of love for the youth and the country as a whole. They want to preserve the nation’s values and culture, which have played a significant role in shaping Rwanda’s history.

Considering that the youth make up 67% of the country’s population, it is crucial to think about the future and how preserving culture can contribute to a strong and cohesive society.

While embracing modernity, freedom, and feminism is important, it is equally vital to hold on to African values and cultural heritage. Our roots define us, and Rwanda’s history, culture, and people are the pillars of our identity.

When thinking of dress code and culture, many might associate it with traditional attire like "umushanana." The thought of wearing it daily might seem impractical, but we can adopt a culture of "dressing for the occasion" instead.

It is not about abandoning modernity but about dressing appropriately for different settings. Wearing club-like outfits to lectures, dressing inappropriately for religious gatherings, or sporting casual attire during important family visits in rural areas can be perceived as disrespectful.

Being smart and decent is not mutually exclusive. You can still look stylish and trendy while respecting cultural norms and values. Embracing Rwandan culture and dressing accordingly will help maintain our unique identity as a country.

Just as you embrace your natural hair and confidently rock your melanin and natural looks, let your choice of outfits reflect the pride you have in your Rwandan heritage. By doing so, you will not only honor your culture but also inspire others to do the same.

In the end, culture defines us as a nation, and we should hold our values and norms dear. Let us remember that dressing the way we want to be addressed is not about restricting our freedom but about preserving the essence of who we are as Rwandans.

Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy recently recommended the legislation on the way people dress in the country as a means of preserving Rwandan culture and decency.