Friday, 5 September 2014

'They cannot even pick flowers...'

I have the privilege of being a delegate at a church conference at the moment, attending as a lay person alongside priests and other lay people from the UK, US, India and Tanzania. We spent today with staff from Christian Aid, looking at gender issues and poverty from a theological point of view.

These are huge issues, and I am not going to attempt to share everything we covered with you. For a start, I do not have the words or emotion to deal with it after what has been a personally very challenging day! A blog post cannot capture the experience of hearing about real situations experienced by those present... 'Statistics (about poverty) are people with the tears wiped away' we were told; today, those statistics have names and I have shaken their hands.

One issue struck me very forcibly; affected me so deeply it brought me to tears. Apologies to those who might be a bit squeamish about this, but it was the subject of menstruation. I was already aware that in some cultures and religions, women who are menstruating are seen as being impure, and can pass that impurity on to others. Today, I heard first-hand about how women are not allowed to prepare attend the sometimes even be with their families at this time. 'They cannot even pick flowers', I was told. 'If they take a flower or a leaf, the plant will die.'

Now for me, who remembers the 'Oh, Bodyform!' ads, who is able to walk into her local chemist to buy sanitary towels without shame, who does not have to change her entire routine or separate herself purely because she happens to have her period... well, I found that incredibly hard to get my head round. And I wrote the following...

How can something that is so essential for life be treated as the touch of death?

I'm not asking you to answer. I'm not intending to start a debate on the subject. I just wanted - needed, maybe - to share an issue which affects millions of women globally and I need to deal with.

Hope you don't mind. x


  1. I'm not surprised that you find this a difficult subject to get your head around. It seems alien in our society that you could be treated like that for something that is both natural and inextricably linked with the miracle of life. My boys ask me about it and I answer them. I cannot imagine living in a place where I would be ostracised every month. Horrible.

  2. Thank you Katherine for high lighting this awful situation that is happening in OUR world. I remember over 50 years ago the first time it happened to me, thank goodness for my Mum and sister, as at that time Dads didn't talk about it. Schools, colleges, and chat amongst our fellow peers didn't really happen like it does today (especially where I live and here whats said)! we have 'Modern Mums and Dads' the majority taking part in there children's health and upbringing. How would our young females cope with the situation Katherine that you have written about. This calls for sustained prayers at the highest level.

  3. From our viewpoint, I suppose it does look horrible. Yet to the women living with the reality, it is normal. The girls grow up knowing it will happen. It highlights how difficult it is to balance Christian teachings and a developed world outlook against a cultural norm that is so alien to my own experience.

    Anon - I

  4. I love the reflection and I love the strapline!
    John Whittaker