• September 30, 2020 1:31 am

Reporting From Delhi

What women want, periodically

ByShruti Das

Aug 28, 2020

Period leave from work is what women dreamt of Zomato’s new policy for its staff makes it a reality

It was that “time of the month,” and Samira* had no other option but to take a day off at work because the first days of her cycle are terribly painful. She finds it difficult to carry out her daily chores, let alone travelling to work and sitting upright in front of her desk for hours! But while writing her application for sick leave during this time, she never mentions “due to extreme menstrual cramps.” Instead, she has to resort to “stomach ache/fever/cold.”

This is a common scenario in the lives of women employees in our country. Periods remain a taboo even today, no matter how many articles are written about it or documentaries are made on this topic. In a room full of people, many women still find it difficult to say, “I am on my periods.” Even if she does, there’s always some man or woman probably, who will look embarrassed or roll their eyes – as if she has uttered a ‘forbidden word.’

And apart from the stigma attached, some women even find it difficult to ask for a leave citing menstruation as the reason. “This often brings reactions like: ‘Oh it’s a monthly affair, so what’s the big deal?’ I was once even told that some might think I am using it as an excuse to get a day off,” shares Rakhi Sengupta, a Kolkata-based beautician.

Thus, the debate whether women should be given “period leave” from the workplace – has often cropped up, but has once more gained momentum with Zomato’s new policy. Recently, the Indian food delivery giant announced that they would be allowing up to 10 days additional leaves a year for menstruating employees, including transgender persons. And this has sparked a row of debates around the country – where some have criticised this move, most have welcomed it with open arms.

Patriot spoke to some women employees to understand their take on period leave. Here’s what they have to say:

‘Taking a day off during periods is not a sign of weakness’

Zomato’s new move is a welcome one and will prove to be a game-changer for deciding office protocol in future. Till date, majority of the office ethics or protocols or rules have deep patriarchal roots. This decision by Zomato shows inclusion of women’s health and comfort in a workplace.

One thing that we need to understand is that gender is a social construct — but bodily experiences are real. Periods pains, cramps, weakness, mood swings take a toll on some women during their menstruation. At this time, all they need is care and rest and not to be shunned because of a biological process. Also, it’s high time we understand that menstrual experiences are different for different women. It takes a severe toll on women with pre-existing issues such as PCOS, among others.

Also, taking a day off during periods is not a sign of weakness or gendered exceptionality. It is a biological phenomenon exclusive to women and comes with its own health experiences. Pain and sickness associated with menstruation is as real as any other pain. It is not a move which shows women in a weaker light, rather it is a move which shows acceptance of women’s wellbeing and comfort.

  • Shreya Ganguly, 24, Bangalore

‘Zomato’s period leave is the best thing I’ve heard in 2020’

“Shit! Auntie Flow is back!”- is how every woman probably “welcomes” their cycle. Those five uncomfortable days are nothing short of a nightmare – where a woman’s body goes through several changes. Then there are days when excruciating pain is the only constant. On days like this, all I want is to snuggle under my blanket, embrace my body and the changes it’s going through. But then culling out a day from my sick leave or casual leave every month makes me want to think twice if it is worth taking.

Had my organisation provided a designated “period leave” then I would have known that they really care about its employees. Also, it will help build employee-employer relationship. I would think twice before leaving that firm.

I feel Zomato’s new period leave policy is one of the best things that I have heard in 2020. This might lead more companies to follow suit, and you never know – this might become mandatory in every organisation. (Though that sounds like a far-fetched dream). Just hoping it does! What a relief it would be. Hope my company takes a cue and does the same.

  • Shrija Roy*, 27, Delhi

‘Nobody talks about periods openly’

Zomato providing periods leave for women has brought a new light of hope in the whole world. I don’t get period leave from my office. Though it’s not that they won’t give me a day off if I say I am not well. But nobody talks about period openly.

There was no concept of period leave in any office, not even the big companies, I believe. But according to me this should be taken into consideration. It should not be seen as a mere need, but as a humane responsibility.

  • Tiyas Pal, 24, Kolkata

‘A step towards eradicating menstrual stigmas’

I was elated upon hearing Zomato’s new policy. There have been numerous instances where I had to take a day off at work during my periods, citing reasons such as “fever” or “cold” or something else. And every time I used to wonder, “Why am I lying?” Why can’t I just say that I am dying of cramps or having heavy flow – so I just need a hot bag and to sleep the day off?”

No matter how liberal we all claim to be, there’s always a stigma attached when it comes to talking about periods openly – especially in an office environment. So, more than the fact that yes, these leaves are necessary, I also believe that it might work towards removing the taboos attached to menstruation. I would be more than happy to write “taking a day off due to menstrual cramps” on my sick leave. This would make me feel empowered, and in no way embarrassed.

Worst of all, sometimes we are required to attend office even with extreme menstrual cramps. This is often self-imposed, as we are made to feed a wrong notion of “gender equality” – and thus it shames us to take a day off citing a biological function exclusive to women. “Will my boss think I am weak or not as equally capable as a man?” This thought process is a product of the patriarchal society. And thus to do away with this, such a step is a welcome one!

  • Amrita Chatterjee*, 28, Kolkata

(*some names have been changes on request)