The lack of focus on priorities is a bug many African countries battle with. In Uganda, money is pumped into setting up a pornographic control committee, an anti-pornography bill and a porn-detection machine, while the economy slumps. In Liberia, the women working in the Ministry of Finance were barred from entering the ministry building because of the colour of their hair.

The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, headed by Mr. Samuel D. Tweah implemented a policy that was passed in 2014. The policy has been criticised and defined as sexist. Liberia is currently the worst country in Africa to do business in. This germane issue has obviously missed the attention of the Minister of Finance.

The banning of coloured hair for women brings into focus the work environment African women find themselves in. The restriction on dressing and looks is focused more on women than men. It also makes one question what is being judged; work productivity or dressing. The policing of what women should wear and not wear also extends to tertiary institutions around the continent.

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Liberian president Ellen Sirleaf Johnson was the first female president in Africa, and is Nobel Peace Prize winner. Photo: Reuters

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Liberia’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection responded to the outrageous action of the Ministry of Finance on Facebook: “Though the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection welcomes the setting up of internal workplace regulations, it seriously frowns on any kind of policy that discriminates against women. The Decent Work Law of Liberia clearly defines discrimination as the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” The ministry stated it would deduct salaries from those who missed work.

According to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Liberia is a signatory, “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women; irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field” are discrimination against women. For a country that produced Africa’s first female president, this is definitely a retrogressive policy which needs to be reversed.