LILONGWE - Muslim nurses in Malawi were finally granted the right to take on hijab while on duty.
"You know these are the rights of women," Dinala Chabulika of the Muslim Association of Malawi told Voice of America.
"As Muslims, we have the responsibility to defend the rights of our women."
Hijab: What's It All About? (Folder) Rulings of Hijab
The Nurses and Midwives Council, the country's medical regulating body, decided this month to allow Muslim nurses to wear hijab while on duty.
"It has taken us almost one year communicating with [officials from] Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi," said Chabulika. "I remember we had two or three meetings in [the capital] Lilongwe."
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The move aimed to encourage Muslim women to join the nursing profession in the southern African country.
"We have [other religious people] like the Catholics who generically have been putting on their uniforms," said Martha Mondiwa of the Nurses and Midwives Council.
"I think when they [Muslim officials] saw more Muslim women joining the profession, that's when they decided to ask for it."
Malawi's nursing service is under-stuffed.
There are only 17 nurses for every 100,000 people in Malawi.
The move comes after the Immigration Department authorities allowed Muslim women to have their passport photos taken with hijab.
But Mondiwa said Muslim nurses have to abide by the nursing uniform while wearing hijab.
"We will not allow them [to] put on colors like black, no," she said.
"We encourage all nurses to follow the prescribed nurses' and midwives' colors. So, for example, if someone is a matron, she will put on a hijab with a matron colors and same to others depending to the color they are, they will go for that."
Muslim nurses welcomed the move, despite worries of being harassed over their wear.
"When you are in a hijab, some of the patients will respect and appreciate that this one is really dressed well and they will have confidence in you that 'I will be treated [well] with this one.'," said nurse Duniya Kazembe of the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
"But [other patients] would segregate nurses who are dressed in a hijab."
Islam is the second largest religion in the southern African country after Christianity.Official statistics suggest Muslims constitute 12 percent of the country's 12 million people, but the umbrella Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) puts the rate at 36.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net