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Menstrual Cramps: Zambian Law Allows Women to take One Day Off Every Month

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Some Zambian women. Credit: AFP

Menstrual cramps are almost every woman’s nightmare.

In Zambia, discussing menstruation publicly is a taboo, and the government has enacted a law that allows women to take one day every month as holiday to rest.

The women do not need to make prior arrangements to be absent from work, but can simply call in on the day to say they are taking the holiday called “Mother’s Day”.

An employer who denies female employees this entitlement can be prosecuted.

The law does not state whether the woman should always remain at home on the day, since that was why she took the holiday in the first place.

This has led to confusion among employers and employees.

Ndekela Mazimba, a Public Relations officer said:

I think it’s a good law because women go through a lot when they are on their menses (periods).

You might find that on the first day of your menses, you’ll have stomach cramps – really bad stomach cramps. You can take whatever painkillers but end up in bed the whole day.

And sometimes, you find that someone is irritable before her menses start, but as they progress, it gets better. So, in my case, it’s just the first day to help when the symptoms are really bad.

Her boss, Justin Mukosa, a married man, supports the law saying that he understands the pressure women face balancing career, family, and their personal lives.

Mukosa added that the law can impact positively on the woman’s work. “Productivity is not only about the person being in the office. It should basically hinge on the output of that person,” he said.

“It could be abused in the context that maybe an individual might have some personal plans they wish to attend to so she takes Mother’s Day on the day,” he added.

Not everyone is so supportive of Mother’s Day, and there are many women among the critics.

A married woman with 3 children, Mutinta Musokotwane-Chikopela says she does not support the law.

“I don’t believe in it and I don’t take it. Menses are a normal thing in a woman’s body; it’s like being pregnant or childbirth.,” Musokotwane-Chikopela, who has a full time marketing job said.

“I think women take advantage of that, especially that there’s no way of proving that you are on your menses or not…. The problem in Zambia is that we have too many holidays – including a holiday for national prayers. So I guess Mother’s Day makes those that love holidays happy,” she added.

According to Catherine Chinunda, a National Trustee of the country’s Workers Union – The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which also supports the law, the entitlement “would have to be forfeited” if a woman were to take it on a day that she was not on her period.

“We have been educating women about Mother’s Day, telling them that on that day, they are supposed to rest and not even go shopping or do other jobs because that is wrong,” she added.

The law itself provides no guidance about what is allowed and it would appear that very few, if any, employers have internal policy guidance in that respect.

Some supporters of the concept also lamented that the law is bad for business.

“Your superiors may have planned work for you to do and when you suddenly stay away from work, it means work will suffer, Harrington Chibanda, head of the Zambia Federation of Employers, said. “Imagine a company that has a number of employees and six or seven take Mother’s Day on the same day. What will happen to productivity?” he asks.

“If you absent yourself yet you are found in a disco house, then it will not be taken as Mother’s Day. You shouldn’t even leave town, be found doing your hair or shopping. You can be fired. For example, somebody was found farming after taking Mother’s Day and she was fired,” Labour Minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, a former trade union activist said, adding that Mother’s Day was initially informally observed in the 1990s before eventually being brought into law.

“The reason why mother’s day is important within the Zambian context is that it recognises that women are the primary care-givers in our society – regardless of whether they are married or not,” Linda Kasonde, a senior lawyer said.

Credit: Kennedy Gondwe | BBC 

19 Comments

  1. Susie

    January 4, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    I think the law is messy. There are many women who don’t need even an advil during their period while there are others like me with fibroids etc who need more than just a day off during our periods. Instead of saying everyone can take just a day off why not update your labor laws so women with severe period pain, evidenced by a doctor’s note, can take time off? And if moms are finding it hard to combine work with family, shouldn’t you undertake labor policies to help new mothers & also embark on social campaigns/ education to get husbands and fathers to do more at home? How is just one day off going to help the situation?

    • FLeur

      January 6, 2017 at 1:38 am

      Haaaaaaalelleuia!!!! Yay man!! GREAT GREAT START!! Hopefully women with excessive bleeding can be given the week to work from home. You men do not know what women go through, especially when you live in a country where clean toilets are not round the corner.

  2. ab

    January 5, 2017 at 1:09 am

    This is sooooo Amazing! Wish UK will adopt this, Some never truly understand this in a woman’s life especially if you are like me that have crippling pains…I dread work the first day of my period, like my thighs, waist, appetite etc just goes numb and no its not endometriosis, its just cramps that makes cripples me for a few days! Maybe I can start the campaign for this in UK hehe! Welldone Zambia, forward thinking

  3. ab

    January 5, 2017 at 1:10 am

    *that cripples me. ma bad, not makes cripple 🙂

  4. Razor

    January 5, 2017 at 2:16 am

    Way to go!
    All countries should adopt this law, sake of people like me with ‘wicked’ menstrual pain for the first two days. Reason I chose to be self employed cos I doubt if any organisation will forgive an employee who is literally useless for two days per month.
    I don’t know anyone on earth who has my kind of menstrual pain… right from when I had my first period, the ‘world’ must know. Smh
    *numb tighs
    *legs too weak to carry me
    *that evil pain… OMG!
    *stooling
    *vomiting
    *loss of apetite
    *weakness
    *1 tab of ibuprofen for every 5mins
    *Probably hospital… yes that happens too
    I truly envy women whose menstrual days feels like every other day.

    • Ottawa Queen

      January 5, 2017 at 2:32 am

      You should go see an OBGYN. These symptoms may not just be the menstruation.

    • Delta geh

      January 5, 2017 at 2:42 am

      Oh wow! Sorry about that. I will suggest you try a couple of things.
      Omega 3 tablets. Get the ones from Walmart that you can take 3 times a day. Take em for 5 days before your period starts. I got the ones from GNC once and those ones only allowed once a day. Let’s say it was quite useless. But the ones I got from Walmart they’re in a green bottle they are stellar!
      Ginger tea a couple of days before your period also does the trick. You can basically cut some ginger and boil it, sieve, squeeze some lemon juice for added flavour and then add a wee bit of sugar if you can’t drink it like that.
      Advil extra strength gels in addition to omega 3 is an amazing combo.
      Lastly pray about it. It’s not too small an issue.
      Oh and lest I forget ditch sugary drinks for about a week before your period.
      Also if you’re very active before your period on the regular it’ll do a great deal in terms of helping your cramps.

    • Tamales

      January 5, 2017 at 5:02 am

      Mine used to be just like yours.I always missed a day or two of classes in secondary school. It was quite embarrassing because everyone knew I was on my period.
      The school matron used to give me a monthly shot( don’t remember the name) just to alleviate the pain. It was like that till I moved to the US and my ob gyn recommended oral contraceptives. And that did the magic.!
      I totally stopped having menstrual cramps after I had my first child..

    • Abk

      January 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

      Try blending ginger with water, then boil. After which you sieve and add freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice and you drink a day before your period and immediately you get your period, you can drink it a couple of times during the day. I used to have bad cramps and it’s helped me a lot with the pain and vomiting. The ginger reduces the pain, the lime and lemon eliminates the vomiting. You should still try to see a doctor though.

    • Wale

      January 5, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Taking Ibuprofen every 5 mins will kill you faster before the period pain does. There many other effective ways to manage this pain. See you doctor, sounds like there may be other underlying issues presenting.

  5. LemmeRant

    January 5, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Wow!

    So its forward thinking to take a month off from because you have a p**sy right?

    When this same law backfires – (i.e. When employers start snubbing females job seekers since they know they can’t possibly put forth the same amount of work as a male employee,) These same woman giving thumbs up to the new law that acts only in their favour will start singing “equal rights!”, “Men and women are equal!”, “lah-di-dah-di-dah”.

    • Abk

      January 5, 2017 at 8:24 am

      Not because you have a puxxy. Some women go through excruciating pain before and when they do get their period! It’s just being practical. One mustn’t bring irrational analysis’ into things like this.

    • Wale

      January 5, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      I am ashamed there are men like you out there.

  6. Judith

    January 5, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Everyone knew my one bad day a month. But after having my first pregnancy (Twins) I had a contraceptive inserted down below. I only get spottings now and then and has been pain-free for 3 years now. don’t know if it’s because I had a baby or the contraceptive or both. I feel lucky!

  7. Mo'Diva

    January 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Nigeria take a cue pleaaseee

  8. Truly Zambia is a woman, nice concept

  9. me me me

    January 5, 2017 at 10:48 am

    In need of this day right now

  10. ab

    January 5, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you Abk, like I said if you have never experienced it, you will never understand the pain so I will let you wallow in your ignorance hunny! Thanks to @delta geh and @Abk

  11. Engoz

    January 5, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    This law is so going to be abused and it’s both the women they are trying to help and employers that will abuse it. A day off versus employers giving you the side eye? Please keep your day off.

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