I was supposed to lead a task group meeting this afternoon at the Big International Company where I have been consulting since February. We need to provide descriptions of all the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in which BIC has invested in Mozambique. It's not a difficult task, but it requires coordination to get all the financial, technical assistance and other information together.
Anyhow, I was just informed that we won't be able to have the meeting because my colleague Ratinha didn't come to work today.
"Ela está incomodada," my colleague Tortoise told me.
This is one of the best Mozambican euphemisms of all time. 'Estar incomodada' literally means 'to be bothered', but in this instance it is code for 'she has her period'.
That's right - lovely Ratinha didn't come to work today because of the devastatingly serious reason that SHE HAS HER PERIOD. And the whole freaking office knows. She didn't just call in sick or say she was taking a personal day. Nope, miss Rata told her boss and the secretary quite openly that she was "bothered" and they all understood immediately that the poor dear wouldn't be in today. In fact, perhaps she wouldn't be recovered from her bothersome condition until early next week.
The worst part is that Ratinha is no exception to the rule, and it seems to be standard practice here for women to call in "bothered" to work and for employers to nary bat an eyelash!
I tried to reschedule the task meeting to no avail. "Epa," Tortoise said when I suggested we hold the meeting on Tuesday (Monday is a public holiday), "talvez ela ainda esteja incomodada até lá..." Yeah, no use trying to schedule something 4 days in the future because, depending on Rata's cycle, perhaps she will STILL BE ON HER PERIOD at that point and therefore out of the office!
I used to have really painful periods, and still do on occasion. I know what it is like to want to curl up in a ball and watch tv and eat chocolate all damn day. But I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that a woman having her period in Mozambique is license for 4 to 7 days out of the office, no questions asked!!! Granted, not all females pull this card here, but still - freaking insane, no?
Anyhow, I sure feel less guilty that I've been taking half-days off to work on my jewelry business and get ready for the Mozambican National Crafts Fair. At least my time out of the office is 1) used productively, and 2) UNPAID.