In early 2021, just three months into a new job, Racheal, a 28-year-old fainted at work. She knew her period was probably going to start that day, and she’d likely endure some pain, but she needed to be at the office – especially because her team was short-staffed. She decided not to call in sick. “I just don’t think a period counts as sickness,” she said.
So, when she began feeling pain-intense cramping in her abdomen and lower back, she took ibuprofen and tried to get back to work. But within 15minutes, her body seemed heavy and tense, and she felt weak. “I was blacking out,” says Racheal. “Everything was blurry, and I couldn’t really respond.”
She was helped to a couch, where she laid, until a healthy and safety officer passed by and sent her to hospital. Racheal did not want or need a hospital; she simply wanted to go home and lie down. If Racheal had an employer-sponsored entitlement, she would feel more comfortable taking time off or working from home when she’s in pain.
Menstrual leave legislation needs to be implemented in work places, so that women can take the necessary time off, every month, to recover and maintain their physical and mental well-being. We need to acknowledge the significance of menstruation for women in order to create a society that is more gender equal. Periodic vaginal bleeding during menstruation can have a negative impact on a woman’s productivity by causing health issues and other problems if it’s not properly managed.
If you have a uterus, then you know how a period feels. Some months are better than others – maybe some light cramping and a little moodiness. Other months, though, can involve days of intense, sharp abdominal pain, back pain, headaches, digestive discomfort, mood swings and nausea.
My question is why should a woman have to ring up and maybe lie she’s sick when, in fact she is having a heavy bleed and it’s causing her a discomfort? We say it’s not an illness, it’s just an absolutely essential part of a woman’s reproductive system and if she’s at work, it should be considered something to be looked after. What are the key benefits of menstrual leave? Does it boost morale? Does it impact work effectiveness or efficiency?
The benefits I can say, for a start, it can change culture at the workplace in that menstruation is not a secret. It’s not something to be ashamed of or something to hide. This brings more openness and more of an inclination to be empathic and supportive. The benefits are pretty obvious – not having to work through the pain and discomfort that can come with having a period.
It also helps one from having to explain themselves or worry about being told `no` when you need to rest. There could be benefits for employers as well; treating your employees better means an overall better work environment. Giving employees more flexibility, whether that’s for menstrual or other reasons, makes them happier, and probably more efficient employees overall. The concept and idea of menstrual leaves is not foreign to our culture. Simply put, it needs to be implemented in workplaces, so that women can take necessary time off, every month, to recover and maintain their physical and mental well-being.
- Joan Atuhwera is a Business Administration Graduate, a Human Rights activist and writer with over five years’ experience in pursuing justice for others via her keyboard. She can also be reached via email: [email protected] or WhatsApp +256774334595
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