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Period leave in Zambia is now allowed by the country’s labour laws, with a provision for women to take a day off every month to accommodate period discomfort – the day off being called ‘Mother’s day’.
Women in Zambia can now call in any one day of the month to take the day off without providing any justification.
Like any other benefit provided to employees, this one too is prone to misuse but the spirit of the law definitely requires a salute. Surprisingly ‘Mother’s Day’ does have women not supporting it, with one quoted in the article linked to above, “I don’t believe in it and I don’t take it. Menses are a normal thing in a woman’s body; it’s like being pregnant or childbirth”.
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Such a statement coming from a woman was surprising. I agree that it is a biologically normal phenomenon; however the discomfort related to it definitely does range from tolerable to extreme – with different women.
Does acknowledging that something like periods need consideration, mar the essence of the fight for equality of men and women? Would the argument ‘If men don’t get a day off, why should women?’ have to be considered valid for professional equality?
I hope not. Because periods are not a choice women make. It is biologically thrust on them; and if a country shows sensitivity enough to make it a part of its legislation it definitely needs unanimous support. Non-supporters argue that since there is no way of validating periods, the day off could be used for personal work. Well, don’t regular sick leaves get misused too?
By implementing legislation like this, even if in a small way, Zambia has set an example of being conscious. And this coming from a country which is till date plagued with issues like poverty, prostitution and early marriages, is commendable.
The law and the spirit behind it is definitely worth looking up to and emulating, by the rest of the world as well.
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I agree with you Rumanna! This is perhaps a move in the right direction. Although periods are normal it doesn’t mean there is no discomfort or pain for majority of women especially on one particular day of the period more than others. Besides, when a woman approaches menopause she may be even more prone to heavy periods that may require her to rest. To deny these facts, is to disregard working women’s health and rest requirements. Initially moves like these will be rejected or criticised or misconstrued as gender inequality or lower productivity or loss of man days etc. This was the case even when maternity leave was first suggested- but gradually it was realised that to retain a healthy productive female worker, it was important that such benefits were offered-not just that she may be able to care for her baby but more importantly for the mother to rest/ recoup after a delivery. Early capitalist employers out to exploit workers refused to acknowledge this and preferred to fire pregnant women. That the State intervened at a later stage to acknowledge the needs of workers be they for sickness or otherwise, for women or men, was the outcome of years of struggle and protest by women employees for their rights to health and rest. That the Zambian government has made this progressive move is indeed heartening to note. Nice that you have shared this information in this post Rumanna !!
Thankyou Sonia! And yes you are right…the patriarchal setup which has prevailed and still does, makes women related issues always needing an extra fight. And to add to that as discomfort related to be it periods, menopause or childbirth can’t be replicated in the rule making gender, makes the struggle harder.
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