Why menstrual Leave Policy? Before the industrial revolution (propelled by the surge in social and economic development), working for menstruating women was not an issue. This was because only a handful of women were in the workforce, as most women were domestic workers. During this era, women were not allowed to own properties, open a bank account, drink unaccompanied in a pub, or work in civil service. Moreover, even the women allowed to work then were grossly underpaid compared to their male contemporaries.
Fortunately, after World War I and II, labor laws were amended between the 1930s and 1970s to accommodate more women in the workplace. Since then, there has been a massive influx of women of all ages and marital statuses into the workplace. Thus, many pro-feminist laws, rules, and movements have been implemented over the years to make the workplace more conducive for women.
Such laws included the gender pay gap, sexual discrimination, harassment, equality in the workplace, and the menstrual leave policy, among others. Unfortunately, while the former laws are duly observed and supported by amplified voices, the menstrual leave policy has remained somewhat stifled and lost in a deep blue sea of policies.
What Is Menstrual Leave Policy?
In her song, “I am woman,” Emmy Meli poetically verbalized the strength of a woman with the verse:
“I am woman, I am fearless, I am sexy, I’m divine, I’m unbeatable, I’m creative.”
This verse couldn’t have been worded better. Given industrialization’s rapid evolution, most women now wear multiple hats while still subject to unchanging biological functions such as menstruation.
Although pain thresholds vary from woman to woman, menstruation is still generally uncomfortable for all. However, for women with endometriosis or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), it is often a near-death experience accompanied by symptoms such as acute abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, and high fevers.
According to the NHS, studies show that 90 percent of women experience menstrual pain, 20 percent describe their pain as moderate, while 2 percent say the pain is severe. Unfortunately, most women do not call in sick to work for fear of being stigmatized or perceived as ‘weak vessels,’ putting their lives at risk. Hence the need for a menstrual leave policy.
A Menstrual leave policy is a paid leave accrues to workers who experience painful menstrual or menopause symptoms and consists of a set number of paid-leave days every year. It is channeled toward de-stigmatizing discussions around menstruation in the workplace.
The Implementation Of Menstrual Leave Policy Worldwide
In 2007, Nike introduced paid menstrual leave to its Code of Conduct and implemented it in all its operational stations worldwide. Nike also obliged their business partners to comply with the code by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. Even Zomato, an Indian-based food delivery business, implemented her menstrual leave policy in August 2020.
Although Spain is the first European country to implement a national paid-menstrual leave policy in 2022, the menstrual leave policy has been in existence for a while. Some early adopters were; the Soviet Union (which introduced a national policy in 1922), Japan in 1947, Indonesia in 1948, South Korea, and Zambia, respectively. Given the above, it’s safe to say that the paid menstrual leave policy is still gaining momentum in workplaces across developed and developing countries worldwide – a typical example of which is Nigeria.
The Current State Of Menstrual Leave Policy In Nigeria
Companies in Nigeria and the Nigerian government haven’t embraced the idea of a paid menstrual leave policy. Hence the increased stigma surrounding women’s reproductive health, especially during painful periods. In 2016, WaterAid Nigeria released a report on Menstrual Health Management (MHM) that shed a bright light on the intent of negative attitudes, stigma, and myths about menstruation in Nigeria, including the fallacious belief that a menstruating woman or girl is a bad omen.
Two years after the Zambian government implemented a national menstrual leave policy in 2015, some residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) took it upon themselves to demand a law that certifies menstrual leave in Nigeria in 2017. They took turns to drive home their demand in a call interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. To date, there hasn’t been any positive response.
Thankfully, in recent times, more and more NGOs dedicated to menstrual justice and alleviation of period poverty have sprung up in the county. In addition, the decentralization of the media has also given a voice to the movement in Nigeria. One such instance is the partnership between Talku Talku, a digital creative agency, and Podsnaija to produce My Period Chronicles (MPC).
What Is My Period Chronicles?
My Period Chronicles ( MPC) Is a 10-episode podcast/vlog hosted by Talku Talku’s business operations manager, Bidemi Adedire. MPC is geared toward menstrual health, hygiene, and advocacy. Additionally, it is aimed at de-stigmatizing issues surrounding women’s health, period poverty, period leaves, female genital mutilation, and the like.
In addition, MPC is a safe space for women to share their menstrual experiences. Ultimately, MPC advocates for Menstrual Justice. In a bid to further expand its reach, Podsniaja went into partnership with Talku Talku in January 2022. By June 2022, Talku Talku will make a progressive decision to adopt the menstrual leave policy.
Why Talku Talku Adopted Menstrual Leave Policy
Despite the snail speed of the Nigerian government and most organizations in the country to acknowledge the Menstrual leave policy, Talku Talku, has set the pace for others to follow. Talku Talku implemented the menstrual leave policy in June 2022, making them one of the country’s first Nigerian organizations to adopt the paid menstrual leave policy.
According to the founder of Talku Talku, Emmanuel Ibok, the reason for adopting the menstrual leave policy is to make Talku Talku an all-inclusive and progressive workplace. He said:
“We want to build a workplace that optimizes productivity and fosters wellbeing. Having initiated the MPC project at the start of the year, we thought we could take it up a notch from just driving awareness to implementing practical solutions.”
What Is Talku Talku’s Menstrual Leave Policy?
The Director of People and Process, Omolola Saliu, asserts that Talku Talku practices what she preaches. She said:
“We always think differently, the purpose of the Menstrual Leave Policy is to destigmatize discussions around menstruation in the workplace. Considering the conversations and awareness we had with My Period Chronicles, We particularly are interested in women’s menstrual health and so it is only apt that the promotion of good menstrual health starts with us.”
Among other items, the paid menstrual leave policy at Talku Talku specifies the following:
- Menstruating employees are provided a maximum of 24 paid days per calendar year.
- Two (2) menstrual leave days may be taken per month.
- Menstrual leave days cannot be carried over.
- Menstrual leave should be requested at least one week before, and in the same way, paid time off is typically requested.
- Unused menstrual leave days cannot be carried over.
- A medical certificate is not required to apply for the MLP.
Reacting to the adoption of the menstrual leave policy, which is a progressive move in Talku Talku, staff have expressed themselves in diverse ways.
The Business Operations Executive, Henrietta Ibeaji, is particularly grateful for this new development at Talku Talku. She said:
“The policy is GREAT. The knowledge that I am afforded two days to nurse myself is amazing.”
Other female staff like Hinds Oluwaseyi from the sales department are pleased with the menstrual policy. Hinds said:
“It’s a good one; it will help me get myself together before resuming work.”
The male staff also share in the sentiment. Mu’azu Jiyah Jiyah, from production said:
“Kudos to the management for always placing its employees in the most favorable working condition.”
Implementing the paid menstrual leave policy in Talku Talku further makes it one of the best places to work. According to Olufunsho Williams from the production department, “Kudos to the management for the thoughtful and humane policy.”