The Zambian government has sparked outrage after coming up with holidays for women when they are on their periods. The law, which binds all employers and must be strictly adhered to, is taken once every month by women to take care of themselves and rest while menstruating.
The law which is known as Mother’s Day applies to all women, whether or not they have children. Women can take the one day off when they want in a month and do not have to provide any medical justification, leading some to question the provision. Also, women do not need prior notice for the one day holiday, all they need to just do is call their employer in the morning to let them know they are taking their ‘Mother’s day’ break for the month.
Unmarried PR personel, Ndekela Mazimba, said she takes her Mother’s Day every month because of her grueling period pains.
“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.”
An employer who denies female employees this entitlement can be prosecuted. Ms Mazimba’s boss, Justin Mukosa, who is a married man supports the law and says he understands the pressure women face in juggling careers and family responsibilities. He said:
“Productivity is not only about the person being in the office. It should basically hinge on the output of that person. 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. “
Mutinta Musokotwane-Chikopela is married and has three children. The full-time marketer never takes Mother’s Day, because according to her, it encourages laziness in working women.
“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. 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.”
Labour Minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, a former trade union activist however revealed that Mother’s Day was initially informally observed in the 1990s before eventually being brought into law. She however warned women who will use the holiday to become lazy. She said:
“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.”0