In Zambia, since 1 January 2017, women employees are entitled to one day of rest per month on the grounds of their menstruation!A holiday that is modestly called “Mother’s Day” or “Mother’s Day”. This unique right in Africa is controversial. Advancing women’s rights or hindering economic productivity? The debate is far from settled.
In a country where sexuality is taboo, Zambian MPs adopted in 2015 a law, so far unique on the African continent, which gives women the right to a “menstrual” leave, following lobbying NGOs. During this period, “some women have severe blood loss, severe pain, others vomit (…) this has implications for their work,” says Madube Siyauya of the NGO Coordinating Council (NGOCC), who Has advocated for the adoption of the text. It represents a breakthrough in a country where women are discriminated against in education and employment, where girls are married young and where child mortality remains high in rural areas.
Unique on the African continent, such legislation remains scarce in the world. Japan, which passed this law in 1947, was a pioneer in this regard. Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan followed suit. In the West, this is found in some companies such as the British company Coexist, which recently offers employees the opportunity to adjust their working hours during their periods.
In Zambia this new law creates controversy. For some, this is a real progress in favor of women. For example, Justin Mukosa, a public relations manager interviewed by the BBC, considers that “productivity is not only related to the presence of the person at work. This should simply depend on the production of the person “whether in the office or at home. Ndekela Mazimba, a single childless child working in public relations, considers it a “good law because women suffer a lot when they have their period,” she told the BBC. In this case, the often painful “stomach cramps” that women usually experience on their first day of menstruation.
This additional day of monthly rest is granted both in the private sector and in the civil service, without a medical certificate and irrespective of the employee’s age.
And it is on this point that the controversy is born. Opponents, both male and female, on this “Mothers’ Day” believe that there is no evidence that women absent themselves for a day stay at home to rest. “I think women will benefit from the system, especially since there is no way to prove they have their own rules or not,” says Mutinta Musokotwane-Chikopela, a marketing manager with three children. Moreover, for some, this law also risks damaging businesses and their productivity. “Imagine a company that has a number of employees and of which six or seven take ‘mothers’ days’ on the same day. What will happen to productivity? “Says Harrington Chibanda, head of the Zambia Employers’ Federation.
The Congress of Trade Unions of Zambia (ZCTU), which has campaigned for the law, believes that any abuse should be punished. “This right should be confiscated” to women who take a day off when they do not have their period, said Catherine Chinunda, ZCTU National Secretary. “We educated women about Mother’s Day, and explained that this day should be spent on rest, not being used for shopping or any other task. “
In any case, the Zambian government intends to persist in favor of this law. Since the beginning of the year, he has decided to provide free sanitary napkins to schoolgirls who live in rural areas. A measure designed to reduce their absenteeism … during their periods.