South African Schoolgirls Are Protesting For The Right To Wear Their Natural Hair

These girls are our heroes of the week


For many women, we take our ability to wear our hair naturally for granted. But for a group of girls in South Africa, this is a right that they have to fight for. Crazy, right?

A group of students at Pretoria Girl's High this week came out to protest against the school's rules regarding hairstyles, demanding the right to wear their hair in a natural Afro style. As if this wasn't already bad enough, they also complained of teachers using abusive language when reprimanding them, referring to them as 'monkeys' and likening their hair to 'nests.' Even if you were having the worst hair day in the world, no girl should ever have to be spoken to like this.


Many other girls have since expressed similar concerns, with Lizwe Ncakula, a pupil at a school in Cape Town, stating that it took 'years to undo the damage to not only my scalp, but my sense of self-love and appreciation for who I am.' These are the years that girls' sense of self-love should be nurtured to help empower them for the future, rather than detrimentally enforcing a singular aesthetic standard on them.



Thirteen year old Zulaikha Patel, who has since become the poster girl for the #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh movement which has rapidly taken off on social media, is just one of the girls who is putting both her foot and her fantastic curly hair down to take a stand in the name of natural beauty.

Following the protests, the Gauteng Department for Education have released a statement promising a full independent investigation into the claims of racism at the school, with suitable actions to follow. The online impact of the protest is already acting as another battering ram in the modern day battle for women to knock down constructed beauty standards and embrace their natural beauty.


Hair is always political. Many black women have spoken out in the past about the difficulties of relaxing their hair to conform to different ideals of beauty and the effect it has on them. The Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once likened straightening her Afro style hair to being in prison, describing how 'you're caged in' by the process.

So we stand with these girls, and all women standing up for the right to express their natural beauty. 

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