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Want India to Have Period-Leave? Here’s How You Can Make It Happen.

This conversation needn’t be only be limited to how corporate India or the formal workforce can avail such a holiday.

Last month, Mumbai-based digital media firm Culture Machine made a historic announcement – the option of paid leave to its women employees for the first day of their period.

Virtual firecrackers lit up the internet! Women, far and wide, applauded the move and hoped their workplaces would adopt such a policy too.

This effectively means that women at Culture Machine do not have to claim their period leave in the guise of ailments like a fever, headache or stomach upset anymore. The organisation has acknowledged how impractical it can be for most women to endure a full day’s work with body cramps, a leaky tap, and the urge to be planted in the loo at all times.

But not everyone was in favour of the move. Even some feminists, including Barkha Dutt, raised their objections by saying it is a regressive step. Such a holiday, they say, is a sore thumb in the fight for equality of women, especially in the workplace. It would only lead to women being further marginalised.

In her essay, Dutt admits to being on her period while reporting from the front-lines in Kargil – a series of reports that made her a household name. And that is rather amazing.

But what isn’t commendable is ignoring how differently the menstrual cycle affects all women. Barkha can be in the middle of a war and do her job. I can feel weak and annoyed, while the woman next door may be debilitated due to endometriosis – a disease described as having hundreds of painful blisters around the pelvis that makes the period much more severe.

Our experiences of our period are different – which incidentally is what the male and female anatomy is too. Men and women are not physically equal. Why is this so hard to accept? A week of bleeding is proof enough.

It’s sad that a day of leave on your period is misconstrued as a sign of weakness. If the tables were turned and men had periods, bleeding may have even been valorised throughout history!

For decades, women have endured menstrual pain surrounded by stigma. It was not always appropriate to grumble about it, and far more convenient to put a smile on and work. This is probably why it’s the norm today.

Women making sanitary pads. Source – Flickr (Creative commons)

But just like weekends were not a reality until a group of over-worked and exhausted workers protested, the rightful option of leave on our period may exist for all one day – only when the chorus is loud enough.

This conversation needn’t only be limited to how corporate India or the formal workforce can avail such a holiday. There is a simple and elegant approach to mainstreaming a period leave that needn’t wait for all the messy red-tape to be cleared.

This goes beyond the gender divide, to another divide that has plagued Indian societies for many years.

Engineers, doctors, lawyers, management consultants are professionals people swoon over. But, the guy who picks the waste heaped outside your house, so it doesn’t stink to the high heaven, is shirked by us.

Most middle-class and upper middle-class Indians have the luxury of domestic help mopping our floors and making our meals. For hours of physically demanding work, the pay is paltry.

We can rationalise it with the law of demand and supply or whatever else economics like to blame the wage gap on, but the fact is there is no dignity of a lot of labour in this country.


In collaboration with Aakar Innovations, The Better India is setting up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that will not only produce eco-friendly or biodegradable sanitary pads, but will also employ women from rural communities around the area.

Contribute for the campaign here.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


So, for everyone one of us that lauded the period leave and despairs at the lack of it in our workplaces – let’s use this initiative to benefit women working in our very houses.

Absurd? Not really. Unlike offices that will require a board meeting, back and forths, and the hiring of a consultancy to weigh the pros and cons of such a move – You can actually push the button on this revolutionary holiday with a simple conversation.

Ask your domestic help about it.

It may take a couple of attempts for her to talk freely because chances are she was shunned for a week as a child every month, not allowed into the kitchen or to the temple while on her period. So talking to you about it might not be the easiest thing to do.

But a little persistence goes a long way. Ask how it hurts her and whether she would like to take the first day (or worst day – whichever it is in the cycle!) off.

This would go a long way in address deeper issues. Most domestic helpers do not even have the option of using the restroom in most houses. Or even if they do  – it’s very likely in the outhouse. Discrimination is so vivid, it’s mind boggling that they are able to talk to us with smiles on their faces.

The privilege some people are accusing this holiday of is that it unfairly favours our gender, which is misdirected. There is nothing wonderful about body cramps, bleeding and mood swings. It’s a necessary burden one must bear, and the least we could get is a day off to deal with it.

But it is a privilege if, like most things in society, it is only accessible to the top 5 percent.

The idea was great. And for the first time in our lives, maybe something as wonderful as this can benefit the economically less fortunate sooner than it reaches us.

All you have to do is talk about it.


In collaboration with Aakar Innovations, The Better India is setting up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that will not only produce eco-friendly or biodegradable sanitary pads, but will also employ women from rural communities around the area.

Contribute for the campaign here.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


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