Last summer, Culture Machine, a digital media company based in Mumbai, made national news when they announced their decision to provide paid “menstrual leave” as part of their employment policy. Devleena S Majumdar, President of their Human Resources department stated, “Men and women are not biologically equal which is why we already have benefits like maternity leave in place. Similarly, we hope this policy increases the feeling of well-being our women staff enjoy.” Her statements brought forth a slew of mixed comments. The policy seemed regressive to some, whereas others welcomed the move and urged more companies to follow suit.
Menstrual leave definitely isn’t a new concept. The idea dates as far back as 1912, when a girls’ school in Kerala granted students days off during their period. On an international level, companies like Nike and labour laws in countries like Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan all include menstrual leave for employees.
While menstrual leave is heavily debated with fair points on both sides, menstruators across the globe can agree on one thing: menstruation is a huge taboo in the workplace. Whether it’s companies not providing sanitary protection in their washrooms, trying to carry a pad or tampon to the toilet discretely, or working through painful cramps while putting on a straight face, menstruating at work – especially in a corporate setting – is not a fun experience.
Women have reported instances of travelling kilometres to purchase sanitary napkins in the middle of a workday or bleeding through their clothes during an important meeting due to insensitive (and usually male) coworkers. The stigma of menstruation not only holds women back from achieving their full potential in the workplace but also prevents them from being comfortable – a basic requirement.
But what happens when working women don’t have access to period products at all? Studies have shown that they will miss out on work during their period for up to five days a month. That means they lose up to five days’ worth of wages too, often leaving them dependent on their husbands’ or fathers’ incomes for years. By gaining access to sanitary protection, these women will also gain access to a world of career opportunities. If you’d like to help, donate to GiveHer5 and spread the word to make menstruating in the workplace a more comfortable and equitable experience.