Zambian women can now call in at their offices to take a day off work in a month when they are menstruating, the BBC is reporting.
The day is known as Mother’s Day and according to law it applies to women whether they have children or not.
The women do not have to provide any medical evidence before they call in any day of the month to take a Mother’s Day off, causing people to problematise the law.
A lot of Zambians, however, applaud the law, saying women are primary caregivers and already have a had time juggling work and family. They also say since menstruation is natural and comes with accompanying physiological challenges, Mother’s Day is important.
According to the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the country’s labour union, the law is important but a woman can only take the day off on a day she is 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,” Catherine Chinunda, national trustee at ZCTU, told the BBC.
“Men sometimes go to drink and miss work…. they don’t know how it feels to be on menses.”
Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, labour minister and a former trade union activist, said Mother’s Day was informally established in the 1990s but has just become law.
She, however, said it must not be abused.
“If you absent yourself yet you are found in a disco house, then it will not be taken as Mother’s Day,” Nonde-Simukoko said.
“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.”
Not everyone is in support of Mother’s Day, as some argue it can be bad for business when up to six women take Mother’s Day off on the same day.
“Your superiors may have planned work for you to do and when you suddenly stay away from work, it means work will suffer,” said Harrington Chibanda, head of the Zambia federation of employers.
“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 asked.
But he is male; and a female staff who works in public relations counters him, saying she goes through extremely painful periods.
“I think it’s a good law because women go through a lot when they are on their menses [periods],” Ndekela Mazimba, said.
“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.”
Justin Mukosa, Mazimba’s boss, supports the law, saying he understands the pressure women face in juggling careers and family responsibilities.
“Productivity is not only about the person being in the office. It should basically hinge on the output of that person.”
He, however, thinks that the law can be better framed than it is now.
“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.