Culture Machine, a Mumbai based digital media company released a video on YouTube last month announcing they would offer a ‘First Day of Period Leave’ to their women employees. It is not their attempt towards women empowerment, but to openly acknowledge and challenge the societal taboos associated with a woman’s period. After all, women need to rest their minds and bodies during menses.
The first day of a woman’s period brings certain challenges to her. Women tend to feel irritated and nauseous, experience severe cramps, headache, body ache, and mood swings. To add to this, some women go through a thing called PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome). This usually happens 10-15 days before they are about to get their period. During this time, they might feel bloated and also experience irritation and mood swings. It becomes difficult for most women to carry on with their day-to-day routine during their period.
But, given that woman’s menstrual periods is a subject of big taboo in our society, how women can feel free to talk about it, forget about asking for a leave. In olden times, women were confined to separate quarters during their period. A menstruating woman, according to religious beliefs, was considered impure. Women were not even allowed to participate in family gatherings or festivities. Have things changed for better? In fact, even today this belief still prevails in some regions, subcultures of our country. Did you notice how your mother switched the TV channel nervously, the moment an advert about sanitary napkins popped suddenly? Forget about discussing the topic or the mention of it in front of your male colleagues, have you ever observed any discussion within family involving its male members? Are periods something women are to feel ashamed of? So, how does one expect a lady to ask for a sick leave on account of menstrual cramps?
Coming down to the bigger question – should women be entitled to a leave on the first day of their period. Why not?
In their video, a few women employees of Culture Machine share what they endure during their first day of the period. And how they often end up feeling embarrassed disclosing the reason to avail a sick leave to their male colleagues. No sooner had Culture Machine raised its voice in support of their women employees, did Mathrubhumi, the Malayalam media company based in Kerala, decide to walk in their footsteps. Through this policy of allotting a leave every month, these companies are trying to create an office space which is friendly and sensitive to a woman’s needs.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is the most natural and a biological process, but the most difficult days of the month for her as well. Our society is finally waking up to the most basic needs and honouring and acknowledging the problems related to us being women, a good news for we women, forming a good percentage of the workforce than ever.
Granting a leave each month to women is not about promoting feminism, it is so much more about letting them gain freedom from the shackles which bind them from openly talking about something as natural as their biological cycle. And, such initiatives by Culture Machine and Mathrubhoomi are trendsetters for our society to become more accepting towards women.
Culture Machine has also launched their petition on Change.org as their endeavour to legitimise FOP leave policy across the country.