African Women Should Be Given Menstrual Leave: Creating Gender Equality in Workplace

For most women in Africa who are beyond the age of menopause, some days are just not lovely considering the bloating, cramps, fatigue and discomfort that come with menstrual period. People take any of these women who may want to take excuse from work weaklings, including other women because it is erroneously believed that it is a no big deal to have painful period. Taking painkillers has become the common advice for these women, who show up at work unable to be effective and efficient in workplaces.

But, this is not so in some East Asian countries that gives their women ‘menstrual leave’ to rest and come back as better workers. In Africa, a common gender equality bill was treated as a taboo the first time it came to the lawmakers. Many people think that allowing African women have their menstrual leave may be an impossible dream? Not at all!

The menstrual cycles have become a source of myths, jokes and legends over the years that we have failed to take it serious.  The Gender Equality Bill that may be re-introduced to the lawmakers is not a battle of the sexes; it is not a bill that removes the submissiveness of women to their husbands neither is it a bill that seeks to erode the responsibility of the woman in her home. It is a bill that benefits the man even more than the woman. If it can be passed, menstrual leave may not be an impossible feat. What a lot of us may not realize is that women are not at their best to produce great results during menstrual pain.

The reason why we do not take menstrual period important is simply because the men who make the law are not aware of what the women pass through during this period. A lot of women are scared of appearing weak in their workplaces or complaining of menstrual period and its associated health challenges because they do not want to lose their work to another lady who may pretend stronger.

Today, countries are moving toward greater gender equality in their workplaces with bills passed and even a menstrual leave payment has been initiated so that the women can have money to buy drugs and sanitation pads. It is so sad that in African companies that are dominated by women are not willing to listen to their own complaints about painful cramps due to menstrual period.

Japan has an exceptional support for their women. According to the 1947 Labor Standards Law, any women suffering from painful periods or whose job might exacerbate period pain are allowed seirikyuuka (literally “physiological leave”). “The law is a symbol for women’s emancipation. It represented their ability to speak openly about their bodies, and to gain social recognition for their role as workers.”

Africa is not the only country that is not fair on women equality. Once upon a time, a Russian lawmaker proposed that women should be give two days off each month, saying “During that period (of menstruation), most women experience psychological and physiological discomfort. The pain for the fair sex is often so intense that it is necessary to call an ambulance … Strong pain induces heightened fatigue, reduces memory and work-competence and leads to colorful expressions of emotional discomfort.”

However, this was rejected by Russian feminists. Some women are not even ready to accommodate such leave for themselves. It is not surprising because some women are not really affected by their menstrual period. If African women are allowed a menstrual leave even if it is a day, there is a higher tendency that they would come back stronger and better female workers in their place of works.