Egyptian company first in Arab world to grant women menstrual leave

Egyptian company first in Arab world to grant women menstrual leave
3 min read
08 April, 2019
An Egyptian digital marketing company last week became the first in the country - and the Arab world - to grant women leave for their periods.
Women in Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Zambia are entitled to menstrual leave [Getty]

An Egyptian company has become the first in the country to grant women leave for their periods following a landmark decision by digital marketing company Shark and Shrimp.

It follows a proposal two weeks ago by Egyptian women journalists who campaigned for women in the country to be granted menstrual leave.

While many Egyptians mocked the idea of "period leave", others have responded positively to the company granting something which is a legal right from some Asian women.

Menstrual leave is legally granted to women in Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

In South Korea, women are entitled to additional pay if they do not use the menstrual leave to which they are entitled.

Zambia in 2015 became the first African country to enshrine a woman's right to menstrual leave in the law, giving them one day off a month when on their periods.

Now, women working at Shark and Shrimp will also be entitled to a fully-paid day off every month. Unlike in Japan, women will not be required to provide medical proof of "specially difficult" menstrual periods.

Up to 90 percent of women experience dysmenorrhea, or period pains. While 20 percent of those women experience "moderate" pain, according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), two percent suffer from "severe" pain.

"I knew that girls experience terrible physical and psychological pain during the first or second," the company's owner and director Mohammed Naim told Al-Watan, explaining that women have a "right" to take these days as leave from work.

Naim was inspired by a group of women journalists who had discussed the idea in a workshop under the title "Gender in the Newsroom" organised by the International Federation of Journalists in Egypt.

Their proposal went viral on social media networks after it was reported on by Egypt's Shourouk News.

"I certainly support leave for women while they are on their periods, even if this is only for the first day," one of the women involved in the workshop, Olivia Muhsin, told Shourouk.

"But I have some reservations that this request could be a hindrance or a tool use to belittle women's performance and abilities in the workplace."

Muhsin's fears were not unfounded, with a sexist social media backlash against the idea becoming widespread.

"So now you're no longer strong, independent women?" reacted Ahmed Hasan on Facebook.

Shady Soliman lashed out: "Maternity leave, one hour break to breastfeed, and now menstrual leave. Why are they even working? They're taking away men's opportunities."

Others worried that the menstrual stigma in the country was too great, and it would be "offensive" or "embarrassing" for women to inform their workplace when they were on their period.

However, many Egyptian women have reacted positively to Shark and Shrimp's decision.

"Can you employ me?" pleaded one woman in a Tweet replete with emojis.