By Ifedayo Ward

I thought it was a great idea to look different for a day. I fished out a print wrap dress I made, a pair of leggings, a wool jacket and two scarves. Yaaasss! Fab but different. My sister thought I was crazy but by the time I smacked my lipstick on, she was clapping in excitement. I stared back at the muslimah-looking lady in the mirror.

My first stop was a roadside food vendor, or bukka as it’s called in Nigeria. I stopped to get my lunch and was greeted with rude stares by other diners. I’m sure they were wondering what a young Muslim woman was doing at a restaurant during Ramadan. I shook my head in exasperation as I felt stares boring into me. I hurried away as soon as I was done.

Unfortunately the rude stares didn’t stop at the diner.  A woman gawked at me with disgust as I boarded a tuk-tuk to start my commute to work. She mumbled “awon iyawo boko haram”  (wife of a Boko Haram insurgent) while eyeing me repeatedly. To ignore her, I fished out my earphones from my bag and let soothing music filter into my ears.

Luckily for me the rest of the journey to work was really good. Everyone treated me with respect.  An old man even stopped to tell me I was a “fine fine hajia”. Of course, my colleagues were very surprised to see me all  covered up.  Their snapchat stories were filled with photos of my outfit.

My commute home was less eventful. But everyone treated me with respect, from bus conductors to fruit sellers. Someone paid for my purchase of fruits. Many people greeted me with Islamic prayers of peace and blessings as I walked through a busy market. I had totally forgotten about the head-wrap and kept looking around me each time I was greeted.

I’ve come to believe that women are regarded as responsible and religious when they have their heads and bodies covered.  There were no catcalls or suggestive stares as I walked by busy markets and streets. Everyone tried to speak to me in Yoruba or  Hausa (local languages), they probably assumed I was not educated because of my outfit. But I’d like to try wearing a hijab again. It was refreshingly different from short dresses, cropped tops and jeans.