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 food...to attend the temple...to 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