To mark International Women’s Day, Bishop Graham was asked to speak at an event in Dudley about Period Poverty called ‘About Bloody Time’. Organised by the Churches’ Housing Association in Dudley and District (CHADD), which Bishop Graham chairs, he was somewhat nervous and reluctant about speaking on such a topic in front of an audience which was likely to be largely women. However, his teenage daughter and his wife challenged him to show leadership and learn about Period Poverty. This is what he said:

Period Poverty is an important issue to highlight on this International Women’s Day.

Period Poverty directly impacts on the ability of women who are living in poverty to flourish. A flourishing life is one that has times of joy within it. There is nothing joyful about not being able to afford tampons and pads.

This has been a topic of conversation around our kitchen table. My teenage daughter really gets it and, together with friends, has been raising money to support young women on their period.

I am going to Tanzania to visit our link diocese of Morogoro in a couple of weeks’ time. Many of my clothes are having to be jettisoned as I have 10 kgs of reusable pads to take out for a project working in a school. This will enable more girls to be in school and not have to take days off during their period. I’m dreading opening my suitcase at the interview at customs!

Period Poverty is an international problem but also a local problem here in Dudley. Yet, having periods isn’t a problem. Neither is being a woman a problem. It’s poverty that’s the problem.

In the Bible there is a moving passage when the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, meets the Widow of Zarephath. She is at her wits end. She’s gathering sticks to make a fire on which to cook some bread for her son and herself. It will be their last meal because, in a place of drought, she’s run out of meal and oil. There is nothing left in the cupboard.

Elijah promises her that, by God’s grace, ‘the jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ And so that happened and she survived. The jar and jug were replenished.

Being poor was the problem for the woman. She couldn’t afford to buy the basics.

Yet, she finds a blessing. Thankfully, there are projects in Dudley that are a blessing for women. The food bank provides sanitary pads. Teachers use their own money to help girls be at school. Churches and charities are donating tampons and pads for women in the refuge. Yet there is so much more that could and should be done, locally and internationally.

This event has a clever title: About Bloody Time. It’s ‘about bloody time’ that our society and its policy makers wake up to what is diminishing women and stopping them from getting on with life.