“It’s well known that menstruating women need rest"
Female teachers in India are campaigning for time on leave during their periods.
Multiple Uttar Pradesh teachers launched a campaign for menstrual leave in July 2021.
The campaign is led by Mahila Shikshak Sangh, an association of female teachers representing over 200,000 female staff working in the state’s government-run schools.
The teachers are campaigning for three days of leave every month. The leave will help alleviate the discomfort they face when teaching during their menstrual cycle.
According to many teachers, they have to travel long distances to teach in areas with poor public transport connections.
As well as this, the toilets at some of their schools are filthy and unusable.
Sulochana Maurya, president of the association and principal of a school in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district, says that more than 70% of female staff are posted in villages.
Therefore, travelling to work is difficult. Maurya said:
“It’s well known that menstruating women need rest as many experience physical discomfort and emotional agony, and travelling 30-60kms to reach schools in remote rural areas can be especially taxing.
“In some areas, unserviced by regular public transport, they have to hitch a ride, sometimes travel the last mile on tractors or bullock carts.”
According to a teacher from a rural school, teachers only use the school toilets when absolutely necessary.
She said that her school only has six toilets that are not regularly cleaned, and are therefore unusable.
However, the problems of having periods in schools with improper facilities do not stop with the teachers.
Many female students do not come to school as a result of their menstrual cycle. Sulochana Maurya plans to tackle this issue too:
“At the moment, we are fighting for leave for teachers. Later, it can be extended to students too.”
The concept of period leave in India is not new. In the neighbouring state of Bihar, female government employees can take “two days of special leave every month for biological reasons.”
Several private companies such as the food delivery app Zomato have also announced period leave for their female employees.
Hence, Maurya sees no reason why Uttar Pradesh schools cannot have this rule too:
“So why can’t Uttar Pradesh do it too? We are all citizens of one country so why have different rules for different states?”
Since the start of the campaign, Maurya and other members of the association have submitted a demand to the state women’s commission.
However, they are yet to receive a response from the government.