By Zurah Nakabugo, The Observer, 2017-07-28
There is no noticeable change in the way government officials are dressing, weeks after the ministry of Public Service issued a strict dress code for them.
On-the-ground visits to government offices this week by this writer found no noticeable adherence to the new dress code and a few workers interviewed didn’t seem bothered by the new guidelines.
According to the guidelines, all female officers are expected to dress in a skirt or dress that is not above the knees, with a smart long or short-sleeved blouse. All officers should avoid wearing sleeveless, transparent blouses and dresses at the workplace.
The ladies, according to the guidelines, should cover the cleavage, navel, knees and back. Women were advised to maintain well-groomed, neutral polished nails. Long nails with bright or multi-coloured nail polish are not allowed in public office.
As for the male workers, they are required to dress in neat trousers, long-sleeved shirts, jacket and a tie. Open men’s shoes during working hours were banned except at the recommendation of a doctor.
Officers should dress in dark colours like dark green, brown, black, grey, navy blue suits. Men’s hair should be well groomed and generally kept short. However, in some ministries and government agencies visited by this writer this week, it was clear the guidelines had been ignored.
For instance, some female workers continued to wear short skirts, sleeveless dresses, tight dresses, short skirts with long slits and transparent blouses.
“No one is bothered about the dress code here. Many people are still putting on their mini dresses and tight clothes with high heels including old ladies. Women behave as if they compete in wearing mini-dresses and tight clothes,” a female worker at ministry of Health said.
According to the ministry of Health public relations officer, Vivian Nakaliika, the ministry can’t force people to dress decently because they are all aware of the new guidelines.
Another worker at the ministry of Public Service said government should focus more on increasing civil servants’ salaries and improving working conditions instead of minding their dress code.
“They could be wearing short dresses and mini-skirts because they are cheap and yet they earn little,” the worker said.
At the ministry of Works and ministry of Finance, workers didn’t seem to follow the new dress code. Female workers wore mini-dresses and tight clothes.
“We feel smart in short clothes and no one is complaining. Why is government bothered so much instead of addressing public issues like poor roads and poor health sectors?” a worker at the ministry of Finance said.
However, at the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, there was a slight noticeable change. Most workers were dressed in free suits and dresses.
“Most female workers here have been wearing decent clothes. It could be because of the ministry of gender issues. But we have been hearing indecent dressing in other ministries,” a secretary at the ministry said.
But Adah Muwanga, the director for Human Resources at the ministry of Public Service, told The Observer last week that indecent dressing is one of the causes of sexual harassment at work, corruption and poor service delivery, hence leads to underdevelopment of the country.
“The man might not tell you, but he will not concentrate on the work due to indecent dressing. Surprisingly, even old ladies of my age had started copying the young ones and competing in wearing mini-dresses, skirts with long slits and high heels. So, we wondered if old ladies are living in denial that they have grown old,” she said.
Muwanga said they had received complaints from men specifically about young ladies going astray, by dressing in an unacceptable manner, in tight dresses, leggings, mini-skirts, transparent blouses, kundi (umbilical code) show and showing body parts which should be covered by Ugandan standards.
Muwanga said many people especially the wives of civil servants, welcomed the dress code rules because some women have been dressing indecently to distract and entice their husbands at work.
“We are not hurting anybody but we just want to look decent before the public since we respect them. People look at public servants and copy from them,” she said.
Muwanga said a public officer’s dress must be neat, respectable, seemly and practical for the particular work she does.
“This guideline is about the tight dresses because they are not practical. Respectable dressing is where in an African setting especially Uganda, you cannot have a woman displaying her thighs and breasts,” she said.
She said women may wear trousers during office hours in form of smart lady suits with jackets long enough to cover the bosom or hips.
“Most women have been putting on tight trousers, dresses and skirts in office to show us how they [are shaped]. Tight clothes have been restricting their movements and others get torn. If they wear trousers, the top blouse should cover the hips,” Muwanga said.
She concluded that if civil servants fail to follow the guidelines, they might lose their jobs since most of the rules are not new.