For far too long we have pushed women's health to the side. The lack of communication and education around women's health is harrowing. The importance for menstrual leave and access to sanitary products is something that is talked about VERY little and it's time that we start opening up this conversation so people have a better understanding of what is really happening.
Did you know that South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Zambia and now Spain all offer some kind of paid period leave for menstruators?
South Korea offers one day unpaid menstrual leave per month. Employees who fail to give menstruators this face fines up to 5 million won.
Indonesia passed a law in 2003 allowing mensturators 2 days paid menstrual leave per year. They are not deducted from the statutory 30 days of sick leave. They get half of their pay for menstrual leave which is the same they are paid for sick leave.
Japan has a law dating back to 1947 stating that employees must agree to provide women with menstrual leave if they seek it for as long as they need. This does not oblige them to pay women throughout the whole leave but a 2020 labour ministry poll said roughly 30% of Japanese enterprises offer full or partial pay.
Zambia approved a rule in 2015 authorizing women to take a day off working during their periods without giving notice or providing a doctors note.
Spain just recently passed a bill creating menstrual leave for women suffering from painful periods. Irene Montero, Spains minister of Equality said "We recognize menstrual health as part of the right to health and we fight the stigma and silence." And while the bill has been passed the length of leave that doctors will be able to grant to menstruators has not been specified in the bill.
Some companies that offer menstrual leave are an Indian food delivering start up called Zomato, software company called Nuvento, Astrology company called Chani, digital communications agency called GoZoop.
So, why is menstrual leave important?
For so long menstruation has been associated with shame, this will help to bring awareness and conversation around menstrual health and it's importance. Periods can cause anything from lower back pain, breast tenderness, dizziness, headaches, migraines, fatigue, nausea, PMS, the list goes on. These symptoms can make it very difficult to be productive at work. Menstrual leave has the potential to help give the time to people who experience these symptoms to treat them without worrying about facing negative consequences at work or forcing people to work through their symptoms which can create further issues. If menstrual leave is implemented it has great potential to improve the health and well being of menstruators.
Lets switch gears here a little bit and shift our focus to period poverty.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty means the lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management and education.
Did you know that menstruators spend upwards of $5,000 in their lifetime on sanitary products? This unfortunately is not a luxury that all people can afford. Having access to free sanitary products can help alleviate some of the financial stress around this and give them regular access to the products they need which can help avoid having to use things such as paper, leaves, old clothes, dirty cloths, cotton or wool which can lead to infections. In developing countries menstruators miss anywhere from 10-20% of school days - sometimes, they drop out of school completely. This is due to lack of access to sanitary products, or they face discrimination and stigma during their periods or they just don't have the educational resources to inform them about safe, sanitary hygiene practices.
In the states there was a national survey of 1,000 menstruating teens, 1 in 5 struggled to afford period products and 4 in 5 either missed or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.
Scotland is the first in the world to supply free sanitary products for all. There is now a legal duty on local authorities to provide free items such as tampons and sanitary pads to anyone who needs them - regardless of income.
Ways that we can help are;
- Continue research to better understand the scope of the problem
- Normalize conversations about periods and women's health, help end the stigma
- Serve as advocates for key issues
- If you have the means donate sanitary products to women's shelters or to anywhere collecting these items
If you are located in the Edmonton area you can contact United Way of Alberta Capital Region to donate or create a fundraiser for sanitary products. Otherwise, I will have more information soon about a drop off location for anyone who is wanting to donate.