Period leaves, a fairly new concept for the Indian corporate environment became the topic of a hot debate on social media when Zomato declared optional 10-period leaves for all its menstruating employees.
On one hand, many women started sharing their personal horror stories of periods, celebrating the initiative.
On the other hand, many others started pointing out why this is not a good idea. Many think this contradicts the fight for equality but the truth is period as a biological phenomenon in itself is very differentiating.
It not only differentiates the genders but is also very different for all menstruating people. PCOS, which is faced by 1 in every 5 women in India has a direct impact on the menstrual cycle. Many women facing it bleed for months and can stop the bleeding only with regular medication. For many others, like me, PCOS leads to irregular cycles.
Periods come to me as a surprise. They came two months ago. They could come today or maybe six months later. This irregularity and other gynecological factors make them very painful. Just like PCOS, other common diseases like PCOD and Endometriosis lead to excruciating period pain for many people.
Medical researches have concluded that period cramps can be more painful than heart attacks. Being forced to go about your day pretending to be okay does not only leads to unproductivity but is also plain unfair. A lot of elder women are telling the younger generation to buck up, pop a pill and work through the pain and though we have been doing it so far is it the only way for a woman to lead a successful life?
Is an inclusive, accepting workspace too much to ask for? When Barkha Dutt ma'am put out how she managed her periods while reporting the Kargil war, it was inspiring but does she want every woman to bear with warlike conditions every month to be able to get a fair competition with others around her?
All these women telling how they bucked up are people we look up to because they made their way to the top in a man's world, but the world is now changing. Leadership positions are being filled by people who have firsthand experiences of how difficult working with periods can be and so the creation of a more empathetic work environment for the new generation should be prioritized.
We should also be able to understand other problems like lack of access to hygienic sanitization. A more flexible approach would help employers in bringing out the best from their workforce. Optional leaves, half days, work from home while on period, at least the conversation has started. Maybe its time we stop giving each other bravery awards for surviving in an unfair environment and collaborate to make it fairer.
Let's make sure everyone gets an equal chance and not just in theory.
POV By Swadha Agrawal