Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016
Sisters of Frida CIC is an experimental collective of disabled women. We want a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.
Sisters of Frida started at a meeting when we floated the idea of having a disabled women’s group. It took some time to come together – the co founders were Eleanor Lisney, Michelle Daley, Eleanor Firman, Maria Zedda, Svetlana Kotova, Frieda Van De Poll and Martine Miel. We became a CIC in 2014.
We are seeking to build a/or different networks of disabled women.¬† The barriers and multiple discrimination have not changed, we struggle to have our voices heard as disabled women in our own rights.
We would like a sisterhood, a circle of disabled women to discuss, share experiences and explore intersectional possibilities.
Facebook group (for UK residents) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisofrida/
Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/sistersoffrida/
Posted on Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Sisters of Frida would like to give huge congratulations to Zara Todd for her new post as the incoming director of ENIL.
She will be taking over from Jamie Bolling, who has been a great supporter of Sisters of Frida. We give her our best wishes for her next plans and some of us hope to see her at this years Freedom Dive in Brussels.
We’re happy that Zara will continue as one of the Sisters of Frida’s directors.
Posted on Monday, June 26th, 2017
Activist, educator, campaigner, feminist and disabled woman, all these terms are used to describe me¬† and I have been known use them to describe myself. Of course they are only a snapshot of the many identities and labels I have and they will continue to evolve over time. However of my identities, two identities tend to dominate people’s perception of what I should expect in life: disabled and woman.
I am, with all my being political (although I am decidedly non-partisan when it comes party politics) and I pride myself on being present and active in my world. Yet every day I get a¬† question or comment normally edged with surprise or admiration at the life I lead. Society doesn’t know what to do with me because I don’t conform to the boxes that have been created by society to understand the experience for disabled people. People expect my life to be less interesting than my non disabled peers and are shocked when it is as or more interesting than others my age. I enjoy my life and try and live it to the full but I experience many barriers in doing so and face exclusion frequently.
Despite the challenge my life and my achievements present to people’s perceptions, there is still a prevailing undercurrent in many of my interactions that I should settle for less or tolerate discrimination and inequality because I’m disabled.
I remember when I graduated from university a neighbour asked when was I getting a job at the local supermarket (I presume because that was the only place they’d seen disabled people employed). I don’t know whether I should just be grateful that they thought I could work or outraged that their expectations of me were so limited. There is nothing wrong with not working or working in a supermarket but there is something wrong with making assumptions about someone’s life choices without having a conversation with them.
I feel that as a disabled woman the expectation to settle is magnified because I am expected to settle as a woman as well as a disabled person. Traditionally society has framed¬† both women and disabled people as passive, this means that disabled women are often seen as the epitome of passive. Although we are rapidly challenging this on both grounds, I often get the feeling that I’m expected to be a bystander in life and not an actor and the barriers I experience accessing society are born out of this. For example I speak at conferences quite often and it is not unusual for me to have to speak from the conference floor or be lifted on to the stage. Although people normally apologise profusely, it leaves me feeling like I don’t belong there or that I should remember my place.
Frequently there is expectation that I should be grateful to settle and it’s not unknown for people get angry or put out when disabled people ask for more wheelchair spaces on buses are a great example. It’s almost like you can be here as long as it doesn’t affect me.
This leads me to wonder if this expected gratitude is driven by the unconscious belief that I and other disabled people have been allowed/tolerated in the mainstream party and we should fit in or shut up and accept whatever access we’ve been given. However it often leaves me feeling frustrated like I’m at a concert where I’ve discover most of the audience have access all areas passes and I’ve only been allowed through the door.
I attend a lot of events and conferences and often people go to great lengths to explain to me the access adjustments, whether they relate to my needs or not. While I am grateful for the thought I often feel conference organisers expect me to praise for doing the minimum. I celebrate and praise the conferences and events that embed access features without fanfare and share the information on available adjustments with everyone rather than treating accessible features as a secret that you have to look the part to access.¬† Sometimes when accessing mainstream events I feel like some kind of pioneering explorer entering the unknown and I feel like I have to over appreciate when attempts at access are made out of fear that the organisers won’t even attempt to include disabled people in future if I don’t.
Even within spaces exploring oppression or rights on grounds other than disability I often feel I’m expected settle for partial participation because I can access most of something or the bits organisers see as important. This often leaves me compromising my safety and/or dignity to access social aspects of events because they tend to be the bits seen as add ons and optional extras. Unfortunately I see the social aspects of life as valuable as the professional because they are often the spaces I can show I’m human and make connections with people beyond professional curiosity.
For a long time I would make compromises without articulating what I was sacrificing to be included because I didn’t want to be seen as ‚Äėthat‚Äô person the party pooper, the moaning disabled person or the difficult one. However I realised recently that by hiding what being in inaccessible spaces costs me I was doing a disservice to other disabled people and future me who may not be able to make the compromises I currently can.
The pesky thing about exclusion is it is rarely visible, although this is not unique to disability.¬†¬† If someone is not there how do you know whether they are not there by choice or because they are experiencing barriers getting in the space. The exclusion of many oppressed groups is difficult to challenge because if someone is excluded how do they access you or vice versa to work through and remove the barriers.
I get the feeling that those with hidden impairments and access needs like child care have to compromise even more often than¬† other groups because having visible needs initiates the conversation for you whereas those whose needs are less visible have the additional burden of deciding whether disclosure is worth it. When I am running events I try and create spaces where everyone is allowed to have and articulate needs. I do this by asking everyone what do you need to feel included and able to participate.
I currently have the privilege to chose how and when I compromise my safety, wellbeing and dignity to take part. What this means is in my work life particularly when accessing non disability spaces I now strangely settle more. Why? because even in the most conscious of spaces we are yet to get to the point where disabled people’s absence from spaces is consistently worthy of comment. If I’m in the room then I can raise it. People can see and feel the effort and energy I spend just getting into the room and maybe next time the next person won’t have to compromise so much.
In my private and social life I chose to comprise¬† my needs when the benefits of being present outweighs the compromises I need to make to be there. As I’ve got older and have been able to see the consequences of settling, my willingness to settle and compromise my needs has decreased. while this unwillingness to compromise my needs has lost me friends and caused me to miss things I generally have a better time now than I had when I settled for partial participation. What’s interesting though is people generally seem to expect me to settle more in my personal life¬† than elsewhere and I can’t work out if it’s because I’m disabled a woman or both. Although I suspect the expectation to compromise comes from the fact that in personal spaces decisions and actions are more traceable to individuals.
Although I compromise less in personal spaces I hide the personal impact of barriers more because I know that many of the barriers I experience are out of anyone’s control. My exception to this is attitudinal barriers because I can’t hide them and they cost me a lot. For example it is often assumed that the people that I hangout with are not my friends through choice but out of charity, kindness or cash. I would like to hope that my friends are there because they enjoy my company if not being me hopefully I’ve scared off anyone there for any other reason!¬† However it has taken a long time to come to terms with the fact people might actually want to be my friend even with all of additional considerations that come with that.
For relationships once people get over the shock as a disabled woman I might want one. Most strangers assume I should/can only date a disabled person or worse I should jump at any non disabled person who shows me the slightest bit of interest regardless of how unsuitable they might be. Navigating this minefield is still something I’m not very good at.
Everything I do in life I do because we only have one life and I do not want regret not living the life I want because of others expectations. Yes there are still barriers and I have to settle like everyone does but I refuse to settle just because it is expected of me as a disabled woman. I hope that by being open about the decisions I make to have control over my life that I can support others to live their lives as they wish.
Weirdly I think settling is fine if you can live with what you get as a result but no one should feel obliged to.
Zara Todd is a Sisters of Frida’s director.
Posted on Monday, June 12th, 2017
Sophie Partridge left us last Monday – June 5th – it was unexpected and a shock to many of us who know her as friend, colleague, writer, performer and campaigner. In the video for Women Speak out, (as part of Sisters of Frida’s contribution to the Women Resource Centre’s ‘stories about everyday inequality’), she said she was a creative practitioner and she worked in the arts and that kind of ‘arty farty things’. But anyone who knows her know that she was being very unassuming there because she had achieved much in her career. Not to mention her campaign work for the Independent Living Fund before it closed.
She was also one of Sisters of Frida’s Steering Group members. We will never forget how she was willing to pitch in and do whatever she can to help – even to the extent of hosting a steering group committee meeting in her home. She took part in the Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline reading her poem on London¬†(with Penny Pepper) and brought her mother with her because she was also due for a family event that day.
She shared her interests with intersectional issues with us by active participation in various events on gender, disability and sexuality, meeting with Lydia X.Z. Brown who came for the Women in the World Festival. She met with Alexia Manombe-Ncube Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs from Namibia, to talk about Independent Living in the UK and discuss best practice to follow.
Sophie was smart, articulate¬† and¬† superb at engaging and connecting with people from across differnt backgrounds. She contributed hugely to the work of Sisters of Frida and the Independent Living movement. Her legacy will be that she will continue to shape and influence the work of Sisters of Frida. Our condolences to her family and friends.
Some tributes from Sisters of Frida:
‚Äč”Sophie was a true campaigner and advocate for equality issues for Disabled People. She had a huge character which was well loved. She was one of the few campaigners that spoke out about intersectionality and it’s the relevance to disabled women particularly around the issues to achieve independent living. Her dedication and commitment to the work of Sisters of Frida will be missed.”
“Sophie was a powerhouse whose spirit and enthusiasm for life was infectious. I will miss her humour and her ability to make everyone feel at ease”
“So so sad to lose a amazing amazing talented funny caring and passionate colleague and someone I was just getting to know as a friend.”
“I cannot believe that we have lost a comrade, friend and fellow campaigner. I shall never forget the spark that is her and how she lit up the room when she joined us.”‚Äč
Some links about /or showing Sophie’s work/s
written by Sisters of Frida team
Posted on Friday, May 12th, 2017
New peer led skills development course for disabled women
(Start date¬† and venue TBD probably September now.)
Sisters of Frida is proud to announce a new peer led skills development course for disabled women.
Following our successful projects ‘Disabled women’s voices from the frontline‘ and Disability and Sexuality, Rosa funding is funding us to further develop disabled women‚Äôs skills and leadership in a space led by and for disabled women. This exciting project will span 12 months and will give the participants opportunities to
- develop facilitation skills
- presentation skills
- and research skills
- identifying your own specific skills
The project will be split into two parts. The first part will consist of three sessions aimed at building facilitation skills and confidence for the participants we will then go on to design a further seven sessions tailored specifically to the needs of the group and individuals within the group. You will have a mentor who will support you in gaining skills in the area of work which you are interested in you will then share the skills and knowledge through a facilitated workshop designed and facilitated by you.
Ideas for topics include
- disabled women and domestic violence
- sexuality and disabled women
- building campaigns and spaces wich work for all disabled women
- working with disabled young people
- arts and self-expression
- re thinking work for/with disabled women
- building support networks in challenging interpersonal violence
The list is not exhaustive and will be led by the participants. There are limited spaces on this program, please get in touch if you are interested to firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
We are very sorry to learn that Eleanor Firman, a strong activist in East London, died last weekend. She was passionate about housing, peace, benefits, but anti racism and disability rights were her biggest concerns. Her death was sudden and unexpected. She had attended a fund raising dinner on Saturday night and was reported to be on good form.
Eleanor was also a founding member of Sisters of Frida and served on the Steering Group. She attended a meeting in Strasbourg for us at a European Parliament Disability Intergroup and then to Geneva as part of the CEDAW working Group coordinated by the Women Resource Centre in 2013. A committed advocate for women‚Äôs and disability rights, she was in the Women Against the Cuts and also a Disabled People Against Cuts member. She was in Left Unity Disabled Member‚Äôs Caucus for some time. She had wanted to be a Labour councillor in her ward.
We send our utmost sympathy to her partner Gerry, and her family, brother, Richard, her father , Peter, neice Jess and all her friends.
She is a great loss to all of us. We will miss her warmth, her passion, creativity and friendship. She never failed to help and stood up for what she saw as injustice ‚Äď even when it is at a cost to herself.
written by Eleanor Lisney
SOF CRPD Shadow Report : UK Initial Report on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Posted on Monday, March 27th, 2017
Disabled people‚Äôs organisations (DPOs) have come together to tell a UN committee the different ways in which the UK government has been breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). See Disability News Service ‘s article DPOs join forces to brief UN on how UK has breached disability convention¬†
Sisters of Frida wrote a short shadow report on 3 Articles with List of Issues. We also contributed to the ROFA shadow report.
Posted on Sunday, March 26th, 2017
Notes from the AGM
The event, held at the Blackfriars Settlemnt, started at 12.00 pm with lunch and networking and meeting started at 1.00 pm.
- Welcome & Introductions
The meeting began with housekeeping and introductions, and confirmation of photo consent from those attending.
- Achievements of the past year:
Disabled Women‚Äôs Voices From the Front Line July 2016
Women of the World (WOW) Festival, Southbank 2016 & 2017
Disability and Sexuality Workshops
Other achievements listed but not discussed in detail included:
A Women‚Äôs Feminist Salon at Oxford University with Eleanor and Zara discussing intersectionality at that event.
Fawcett Society annual conference(Eleanor)
Green Party Conference (attended by Sarah)
Global Disabled Women‚Äôs training on UN Instruments (attended by Eleanor in Geneva)
A Conference in Germany around UN Law on CRPD (attended by Sarah)
Plan UK Festival for Girls (training given by Fleur and Eleanor)
A project lead by the Women‚Äôs Resource Centre ¬†on disadvantaged women‚Äôs¬† (Sophie and Eleanor) also videos on-line.
A United Nations Commission on Status of Women, New York attended by Eleanor, Lucia and Michelle Baharier from Sisters of Frida, also lead a side event.
Women Speak Out an event at the Women‚Äôs Resource Centre.
- Sisters of Frida in Three Years‚Äô Time
Lani introduced a group exercise to understand where people would like Sisters of Frida to be in 3 years‚Äô time.¬† Everyone present assembled into groups of 3 ‚Äď 4, with each group aiming to achieve 1 ‚Äď 5 newspaper headlines that described their aspirations for the organisation.
- Strategy Road Map
Lani introduced an activity evaluation table giving an overview of areas of work, and current and recent projects.¬† The table was a starting point to assess what has been done in the last year and help Sisters of Frida to plan for the next 3 years.
Each of the 3 groups above took a section of the table to work through.
other photos from the AGM are on the flickr.
Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
Please note new time, although the AGM starts at 1pm as seen from previous post , you are welcomed to get there before. Blackfriars Settlement has an excellent cafe with reasonable prices for lunch or snacks.
Please register at eventbrite
Please also have a look at these documents
We are asking for your ideas, opinions as to how you want Sisters of Frida to plan a strategy for going ahead.
Here is the agenda for the day
Sisters of Frida Annual General Meeting
Venue: Blackfriars Settlement, 1 Rushworth St, London SE1 0RB
Date: Saturday, 25 March 2017
12:00noon to 1:00PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Networking
1:00PM to1:30PM ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† What we‚Äôve done, finance & questions
1:30PPM to 2:00PM ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Visionary: Sisters Of Frida in 3 Years‚Äô
2:00 PM to 2:15PM Break
2:15PM to 3:30PM ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Strategy: Road Map
3:30PM to 3:45PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Break
Steering Group Members Meeting
3:45PM to 3:50PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Thank you and welcome new SGM
3:50PM to 4:20PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Prioritise outcome from Strategy session. This will involve agree work plan for the future but also assigning it to the visionary statements.
4:20PM to 4:40PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Governance
4:40PM to 5PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A.O.B
Posted on Monday, March 20th, 2017
Main talks programme panel ‚ÄúIntersectionality for Beginners‚ÄĚ at Women of the World Festival 2017, in London South Bank. This panel featurered a keynote from Lydia X. Z. Brown and panel of Guppi Bola, Kuchenga Shenje, Emma Dabiri, and Eleanor Lisney (from Sisters of Frida) chaired by Hannah Azieb Poole. Transcripts kindly provided by Lydia)
This was the prepared speech by Eleanor Lisney¬† for the panel (but not read out)
When I came back to the UK to take up the position of relationship manager at a university, people told me I ticked many brownie points. I learn to realise they meant I had many disadvantages , because I was a woman, of an ethnic minority, and disabled. Some said it must be an advantage in applying for jobs but believe me, it isn‚Äôt . This is before I even heard of the term ‚Äė intersectionality‚Äô, the multiple oppression that arise out of having multiple identities, ¬†and understand the impact it had on my life and that of others.
In January, I was invited to speak as a Sister of Frida at a hearing at the European Parliament on domestic violence and disabled people, and I used a personal example when mentioning intersectionality. When I was living in France I went through a divorce process, the court saw me as a non white, disabled woman with a bad grasp of the French language. My ex, a white British man, is an international¬† civil servant, had many human rights’ lawyers as his friends. I did not even know French divorce laws were different from those in the UK.
I think it was partly from that experience I co founded Sisters of Frida – understanding the complexity of having multiple identities- and also it‚Äôs in¬† Article 6 of the Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities.
States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The UK has ratified the CRPD and In fact, quite a few of disabled activists are heading for Geneva because of the examination of the uk govt for its implementation. I wanted to go but it conflicted with the international women‚Äôs day events and me here at WOW.¬† Disability and feminism. Women organisations do not know much about disability and disabled people‚Äôs organisations are gender neutral, we hope to build bridges there and make a change. Just insisting on our rights to be heard and to make spaces more inclusive and accessible are challenges. I hope we have made some difference. If I make a mention here, one Sister of Frida, is Rebecca Bunce who is a co founder of IChange has campaigned tirelessly for the Istanbul Convention and spoken on the need for access at public spaces for disabled women.
The disability movement is very white here and we would like to promote and make black and ethnic minority women more visible. It‚Äôs a natural reaction that you don‚Äôt join when you can‚Äôt identify with the people in it. And to show that they are not just engaged in being there as recipients but also in leadership roles. ¬†We have had discussions on disability and the¬† cultural differences on the impact of disability. Many BME women come and share with me about their disabilities but they do not self identify (unless it‚Äôs a physical visible impairment ) as disabled people¬† because of the negative perspectives, stigma and non representation. But I know this goes for other communities not just¬† for Black and women of colour .
And in the UK austerity measures by this government have meant that the intersections of being BME and disabled and women mean that many of us are reeling from the compounding cuts in benefits and services. In all areas of our lives.
My friend and fellow Co founder of SoF, Michelle Daley, has spoken on the importance of intersectionality and the social services on Wednesday, she speaks as a black disabled woman
I quote her:
“I am a woman, a black woman and a disabled woman. In most areas of my life I’m forced to compartmentalised my different intersections…. I relate this point from one of my assessments of need. So when I explained that I needed help with skin care, which is not related to my impairment, it was dismissed. The assessor had no knowledge about skin sensitive and dryness often experienced by Black People and the need for daily skin care to prevent discomfort. In this example it demonstrated how my different intersections as a Black Disabled Woman were not considered and how they interact with each other. ”
She is chairing the SoF panel at 1.15 this afternoon. I recommend you go listen to her and my other Sisters at that panel.¬† Thank you.
Why does much of the women‚Äôs rights movement marginalise disabled women?
During the last weekend in London at the Women of the World Festival (WOW) a panel of speakers discussed why disability is so often left out of conversations about intersectionality, and surveyed the key battlegrounds that disabled women are fighting on.
The panel was organized by Sisters of Frida.
Speakers included Lydia X. Z. Brown, disability rights activist; Magdalena Szarota, Polish disability rights activist and HIA Polska Board Member; Sarifa Patel of Newham‚Äôs Disability Forum; and Simone Aspis, Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) campaigner. Chaired by Michelle Daley of the Sisters of Frida disabled women‚Äôs collective.”
Other photos from the Women of the World Festival with SoF and disabled women at Flickr¬†¬†¬†
We collaborated on ‘Disabled women missing from history’ these were exhibited at the cafe of the Royal Festival Hall
Posted on Monday, March 13th, 2017
On Saturday, at Women of the World festival, I found myself on the panel for the planning meeting of ‚ÄėWomen‚Äôs Day Off‚Äô.¬† This is being organised by the Women‚Äôs Equality Party for 2017 to¬†coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act and calls all women to not perform any paid or unpaid work for one day to raise awareness of gender inequality.
In my two minutes, I raised the issues of inclusion and shame.
Disabled women must be included in the organisation of the day and there needs to be a range of channels through which we can participate. We are providing paid and unpaid work and being exploited too. In fact we‚Äôre hit harder:
- Disabled men experience a pay gap of 11% compared with non-disabled men, while the gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is double this at 22%.
- The pay gap between disabled men and women in employment is 14% [Footnote: Disability in the UK 2016: Facts and Figures, Papworth Trust (2016)]
So whichever way you slice it (by gender or disability) we are disproportionately impacted
Events must be inclusive and, in my view, those who spoke out agreed with this objective. But this has to follow through to the realities of the day. It requires organisers (formally and informally) to critique any buildings, spaces and materials, to carefully plan all events so that meetings and rallies are inclusive and to provide ‚Äėvirtual‚Äô participation channels for those that cannot participate physically. This leads me to support needs. How will I ¬†participate if my support system breaks down for the day because my PA team have jumped on a coach to London and I‚Äôm lying in bed bursting for the loo?
Let‚Äôs face it, my PAs won‚Äôt leave me. So they won‚Äôt take the ‘day off‚Äô. This is a problem for the WEP campaign. My PAs are underpaid and undervalued by the State – they should be near the front of any rallies and marches but probably won‚Äôt be. Perhaps our solution will be that I inform my local authority that I have a credible belief my PAs will ‚Äėstrike‚Äô that day and this will put them on notice that I will be in danger. A contingency plan will need to be put in place. Even if my PAs come to work that day, the time it will take to put this plan in place will cause disruption and inconvenience for local authorities and WEP‚Äôs objectives will be virtually met.
Now I turn to the second issue which concerns me: shame. The campaign organisers need to be very clear and firm with enthusiastic feminist activists to be careful about the language they use. Take, for example, the phrase ‚Äúburden of care‚ÄĚ. Firstly, I receive support, not care. Let‚Äôs not disempower disabled women. Secondly, we are not ‘a burden’ on the state or our support networks. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse. Campaigners who major on the ‚Äėburden of care‚Äô risk adding to the emotional abuse we are already experiencing.
It is important that the campaign keeps us included in the planning process in order to allow disabled women to amplify the messages and add our protest. But it must also take responsibility for preventing attacks on our safety and dignity; we cannot be collateral damage in this day of action.
Sarah Rennie¬†is a director of the Wisdom Factory CIC, a social enterprise in Birmingham. As a former solicitor, her day-to-day work is¬†research and governance advice. However, Sarah delivers¬†disability equality training nationwide and¬†acts as a consultant for select clients on internal equality working groups. She is also vice-Chair of the city‚Äôs Access Committee. She is also on the Sisters of Frida Steering Group.