Twenty one days have passed since that infamous ban on beauty enhancement imposed on female Members of Parliament. Speaker of the Tanzanian Parliament, Job Ndugai announced the ban that left female MP’s who embelish themselves with artificial finger nails and eyelashes with no access to the Parliament.
There were mixed reactions from many after the ban was announced. People voiced their opinions, stating that the matter is too trivial to deny a parliamentarian access to the parliament. However, the ban came after the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Faustine Ndugulile stated that artificial fingernails and eyelashes are associated with alarming statistics on health risks.
Ndugulile was quoted saying that artificial eye lashes, and finger nails do not fall under the category of cosmetics in the Tanzania Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act (TFDCA) Cap. 219
It was reported that, some 700 women have visited Muhimbili National Hospital with complications resulting from fake nails, eye lashes and skin bleaching.
As there were contrasting views on the ban, one sentiment that was recurring amongst many, was the undeniable intrusion into women’s lee-way to adorn themselves the way they want, for we live in a modern Tanzania where women have freedom to do as they please, so long as it isn’t illegal.
Women have made so many strides in different fields, why would a man still dictate how a woman should look?
Leila Hassan, 36, a banker, says the ban is so biased against women and is only meant to dictate on what women should wear or do even in this era of globalisation. She says, women are fully aware on what is right and wrong. Most of them apply makeup and other accessories for years, why then would such a ban be imposed on members of parliament?
“In as much as there are health risks involved, a woman, who is of full mental capacity can decide whether to use beauty enhancement products or not. She shouldn’t have to be told by a politician that such products are harmful and thus she’s denied certain rights as a result,” Leila says.
She further points to the more pressing issues that need to be discussed in the parliament other than talking about women and beauty.
“Seriously, discussing about nails and eye lashes that are only affordable to a few women with middle and high incomes is not fair to the rest who look up to political leaders to help them in developmental matters,” says Leila.
Anusiata Bilembo, a lawyer, agrees with Leila. She says in today’s world where women are making many changes and contributing to national development such minor things should never be brought to attention, especially in the house of parliament.
She thinks that, beauty enhancers are of no national value for the parliament to stretch its muscles over to the point of announcing a ban. She would rather they focus on skin bleaching agents that affect majority of women and are easily affordable, putting many more women at risk.
“If you are to look at the greater effects between skin bleaching and wearing fake nails and eye lashes, you would see that there is a vivid difference as to the extent of the effects to women. Skin bleaching is affordable, some bleaching products are sold at Sh1,000, while eyelashes cost between Sh10,000 and Sh30,000 and artificial nails cost between Sh10,000 to 40,000,” she says.
She however voices her dismay at the infringment of women’s liberty to look good. Beauty is part of a woman’s life. Young or old, married or not married, many women love to look good. That being the case, if a woman’s beauty preference does not in any way affect her productivity at work, then why try to deny her access to beauty enhancement products?” she questions.
Edwick Mapalala, Country Director for Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), says a lot of things have changed as a result of globalisation and there is a lot of information available on human health and what is defective and what isn’t.
She says that the ban has good intentions to protect women’s health but it also touches on people’s personal lives.
She says it is high time women are educated on health risks associated with using beauty enhancement products. It is up to them to decide whether they want to take the risk or not. “Banning them from entering the parliament if they have artificial nails or eye lashes feels more like invading their personal lives,” she says.
Commenting on the matter, Edda Sanga the Executive Director of Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), says the organisation is not in position to comment on the matter as it believes that the matter is too personal.
“We heard the announcement of the ban but we think the matter is too personal for us to comment on it. TAMWA has a lot of work to do but the ban is none among the work that TAMWA can pay attention to,” says Sanga.
Commenting on the health risks that are likely to face a woman who wears fake eye lashes, Dermatologist Elia Mboneko, who works at Mbezi Medical Clinic, says if the eyelashes are not well attached they can result to irritation and eye redness.
He says, eye redness causes eye infection that can stimulate dirt and bacteria that can lead to inflammation, swelling and eye problems.
He says that if the glue used to stick the fake eyelashes is not the right one there is a possibility of a woman losing her original lashes.
When it comes to finger nails, some nails use Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) ingredient sometimes found in liquid monomers used to make artificial nail enhancements.
He says, the MMA ingredient can cause serious damage and at the sometime permanent damage to natural nails and lungs, one can end up with permanent loss of sensation of fingertips, deformities and respiratory problems.
Commenting on the MMA agent on nails, Dotto Kilinda, a beutician at Smart Nails Salon in Sinza, says it is not easy to identify if the fake nails have that ingredient as none of the packs come bearing clear information.
He says, since the ingredient is illegal, none of the manufacturers highlight it. He confesses to have several cases from his clients with rotten and swollen finger nails due to fake nails and sometimes fake glue.
“I have had several cases and complaints on fake nails. It is never easy to calm a client who has experienced a beauty mishap,” he says.
In his opinion, instead of concentrating on the ban, the government through Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) should together identify wich products contain harmful chemicals and stop them from entering our market. Failure to do so, people will continue to be harmed with millions of other harmful products out there in circulation.
A random survey by Woman revealed that the ban did not affect salon business and majority of women ignored the statistics that show a total of 700 cases were reported at Muhimbili in 2017 due to beauty-related issues.
The 8 salons visited around Sinza, Tabata and Kinondoni were all filled with long queues of customers waiting for their nails and eyelashes to be done.
By Salome Gregory