OJT Nafisah Nakhid has been transferred and started her first day of training at the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government yesterday.
Nakhid, 23, a mechanical engineer graduate from the UWI, St Augustine, reported for duty at the ministry’s Mechanical Engineering Unit at 8 am on Monday, where part of her duties are to assist in the procurement and co-ordination of vehicles for all 14 regional corporations.
Monday afternoon, Nakhid was formally introduced to line Minister Kazim Hosein who expressed happiness over the resolution to Nakhid’s OJT placement.
Nakhid’s reassignment came one week after she reported for duty at the SDMS’ Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College but was denied the opportunity to train at the school unless she agreed to remove her hijab while on the compound. She was told this was a decision by the school’s Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) board of management. However, Nakhid, who has been wearing the hijab for the past 15 years, refused to agree to this, believing it to be discrimination and left the compound.
In an immediate response, the Ministry of Education said the school was government-assisted and the act was deemed “a flagrant disregard of the laws enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.” But SDMS secretary general, Sat Maharaj is standing by the decision, saying anyone who is accepted to teach at the college has to conform with the school’s code of conduct and dress code.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia admitted he had no knowledge that Nakhid was reassigned but expressed happiness for her and assured that the ministry will continue its action against the SDMS.
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), in a release highlighting Nakhid’s issue said the body is empowered to investigate these complaints and, where possible, to bring the parties together for conciliation. The service would be free of charge and if the complaint cannot be resolved at the level of the EOC, the matter may be referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal which is a superior court of record and is presided over by a judge. The release added that the EOT is empowered to make orders, declarations and awards of compensation as it deems fit and also reminded members of the public that “denying employment to someone on the basis of their religion may constitute discrimination, and is prohibited by the Equal Opportunity Act Chapter 22:03 [Act No 69 of 2000 as amended] (‘the Act’ and/or ‘the EOA’).