Sisters of Frida AGM 6th Feb 2016

Sisters of Frida AGM 6th Feb 2016
14 women in front of the Sisters of Frida banner, some in wheelchairs. and one baby held in mother's arms

Group photo at the end of the AGM


We had a great turn out for the annual meeting at Blackfriars Settlement last Saturday. The venue was great, spacious for our needs and had good access. Not everybody could stay the whole time.

We have a nice lunch and the meeting proceeded well with Eleanor giving an introduction and welcoming new people, reporting on activities in the past year. Lani and Dyi spoke about the Sexuality and disability workshop before we had a short break. Sarah then gave a presentation on the Sisters of Frida’s structure and lead the discussion on how to proceed to work in the future. There was great enthusiasm on the idea of a ‘family’  – on the discussion for a name for supporters and donations. It continued on to what Sisters of Frida did and does as a collective and ended with a question and answers session before time ran out.

There was a short Steering Group meeting with old and new members before it was time to clear up and out of the venue.

The Steering Group 2016

Annabel Crowley

Armineh Soorenian

Dyi Huijg

Eleanor Lisney

Kirsty Liddiard

Lucia Bellini

Michelle Daley

Rebecca Bunce

Sarah Rennie

Sophie Partridge

Zara Todd


many thanks to Obi for livestreaming for us – some sisters could not make it to the meeting.

here is the links if you want to watch

(transcripts to follow)

Zara Todd: Disability rights campaigner in today’s Guardian!

Zara Todd: Disability rights campaigner in today’s Guardian!

Zara, one of our steering group and director, had an article My biggest act of rebellion as a disabled person is living as I wish’. But somehow that fact of being in Sisters of Frida got missed out in her impressive CV!

“What you fundamentally want when you are growing up is to fit in, and when you are constantly being told that you don’t fit, there are two ways you can react,” says Todd. “One is to take it all on board and end up hating yourself, and the other one is to fight it.”

For Todd, who has been a committed activist since the age of 11 when she began “all sorts of campaigning” with a local charity focused on young people, it is quite clear which approach she took. While legal landmarks such as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and the Equality Act 2010 have undoubtedly heralded improvements in the lives of younger disabled people, numerous obstacles remain to full inclusion, she says.

“There have been massive strides, but one of the things that saddens me most about hearing children and young people’s experiences today is that a lot of the things that I experienced are still happening. I hear stories of young people who aren’t even allowed out [during break times] because there are fears that they might be bullied or that something might happen to them and there aren’t enough staff to facilitate it safely, so the only option is to keep them all in a room together.”

read the rest of the article at the Guardian.


Zara Todd

Zara Todd @toddles23



Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory

Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory

This article, quoted in part here, is for all those women who have ‘invisible disabilities’ who is surviving with chronigue pain and illnesses. We feel what she wrote here will resonate with many sisters. Thank you Johanna Hedva and Mask magazine

You can read the rest of the article at the Mask Magazine website

With all of these visitors, I started writing Sick Woman Theory as a way to survive in a reality that I find unbearable, and as a way to bear witness to a self that does not feel like it can possibly be “mine.”

The early instigation for the project of “Sick Woman Theory,” and how it inherited its name, came from a few sources. One was in response to Audrey Wollen’s “Sad Girl Theory,” which proposes a way of redefining historically feminized pathologies into modes of political protest for girls: I was mainly concerned with the question of what happens to the sad girl when, if, she grows up. Another was incited by reading Kate Zambreno’s fantastic Heroines, and feeling an itch to fuck with the concept of “heroism” at all, and so I wanted to propose a figure with traditionally anti-heroic qualities – namely illness, idleness, and inaction – as capable of being the symbol of a grand Theory. Another was from the 1973 feminist book Complaints and Disorders, which differentiates between the “sick woman” of the white upper class, and the “sickening women” of the non-white working class.

Sick Woman Theory is for those who are faced with their vulnerability and unbearable fragility, every day, and so have to fight for their experience to be not only honored, but first made visible. For those who, in Audre Lorde’s words, were never meant to survive: because this world was built against their survival. It’s for my fellow spoonies. You know who you are, even if you’ve not been attached to a diagnosis: one of the aims of Sick Woman Theory is to resist the notion that one needs to be legitimated by an institution, so that they can try to fix you. You don’t need to be fixed, my queens – it’s the world that needs the fixing


woman in a vivid red dress on a wheelchair holding a stick on her right hand

photo by Pamila Payne; Styling, hair and makeup: Myrrhia Rodriguez; Art Direction: Johanna Hedva

Johanna Hedva (@bighedva) is an anticapitalist psychonaut sorceress who lives in Los Angeles, where she’s from. She is the writer/director of The Greek Cycle, a series of feminist-ed and queered Ancient Greek plays; and the author of The Crow and the Queen, a novel published in limited-edition handmade hardcovers; Incunabula, a series of 103 fables with each fable published in its own handwritten book; My Cellar Doors, a book of poetry written on Salonpas pain patches; and Permanent Winter, a book made to be buried in the ice of Antarctica. This article is an excerpt from the forthcoming This Earth, Our Hospital (Sick Woman Theory and Other Writings).

Sisters of Frida AGM Saturday 6th Feb London at Blackfriars Settlement 12.30pm

Sisters of Frida AGM Saturday 6th Feb London at Blackfriars Settlement 12.30pm
group of women around a coffee table

last year’s AGM in Coventry


This year’s AGM will be on 6th February at the Blackfriars Settlement, 1 Rushworth Street, London SE10RB at 12.30pm. This is an accessible venue with a kitchen. As the date coincides with chinese New year, Chinese lunch will be provided but please let us know if you re coming so that we can provide sufficiently. (contributions appreciated for covering costs but not obligatory.) There will be gluten free, vegetarian and vegan provisions. Please let us know if you have other dietary or access issues. There will be a palantypist. Email

Agenda will be provided nearer the date. Directions are on the website. For those coming from Euston, the buses 68,168 stop nearby at St Georges Circus, and there are buses 63 and 45 from Kings Cross, stop at Pocock Street.

Please let us know if you intend to come and if you have other access needs or dietary requirements.

please register at


Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year

Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year

We have had a great year!

We were part of the WOW Festival in the Southbank, we were in Leeds and London  with AccSex documentary with Shweta Ghosh, we were also took part in the Feminism in London Conference and the Youth Action Festival.We were campaigning with Million Women March and Sisters Uncut. We took part in social justice events such as Sparks in London. Sisters spoke at the Woman Up event and the UK Disability History Month and had a great workshop on Sexuality and Disability.

Thank you for your support and please continue in 2016. Have a great festive season and Happy New Year! 

Julia Daniels: On the Subject of Voice

Julia Daniels: On the Subject of Voice

Thank you to Julia Daniels for allowing us to reblog this.

For lots of other people, this ‘blog writing’ malarkey seems to come so easily… and writing as a way to express my emotions has become a very precious process…so why is it that the words; ‘developing an on-line presence’ seem to invoke such terror in me?

Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of an introvert, naturally seeking enjoyment out of quieter pastimes like reading, yoga and, to be honest, blissfully day-dreaming about anything and everything. And maybe (I think this is the crux of it) it is due to the tangled mess of emotions that prevent me from speaking – the fear that I will have nothing of value to contribute to the world. Fear, also, of being exposed as the worthless waste that I know myself to be, or that living in this ableist world has taught me that I am. Fear of exposing myself to public ridicule by using the last remaining method I know to express my thoughts to a select few of my fellow academics.

For I do use writing to express myself, but always under the cloak and relative protection of academia, twisting and cultivating glimpses of my private, personal life into theoretical and political concepts in order to fool people into thinking that I do indeed have the flair and proficiency to be a successful PhD researcher. I fear that by writing a blog like this, I will be caught out, recognised as an imposter. Nevertheless, I feel the time has come for me to ‘speak out’, as it were.

Maybe for you to understand where I’m coming from, I first need to tell you a little bit about my life. 15 years ago, I was involved in a car accident which left me with an assortment of broken bones to my upper body, a paralysed right arm, a severe head injury and damage to my vocal cords from incubation. 6 operations later, I still have a peculiar, breathy-sounding, very quiet voice. This compounds with the damage to the language and memory sections of my brain to make communication quite difficult for me. I have trouble processing auditory information, so it takes a while for me to fully comprehend what is being said in a conversation. Teamed with my natural tendency towards inhibition, this leads towards a potentially isolated existence. Whilst I do enjoy meeting new people, the dread of the, ‘what’s wrong with you, then?’ questions, or even worse, the grabbing of the throat and trying to mimic my voice makes me want to SCREAM (but, ironically, I can’t physically do that. Bugger). This makes me silently shrink away, back into the close circle of friends that I know and love.

It is taken for granted that the spoken voice is an accurate depiction of who you are as a person. If you are articulate, reasoned and comprehensible, this is taken as evidence that you are well-educated (whatever that means). This presupposition leaves no room for the disfluent speakers who stutter and stumble over their words, or for people like me who’s words push and shove together in a maddening array to get out, leaving me so confused that none end up getting expressed. Is it possible to imagine a world where disfluent speakers are equally validated? Where the non-disabled population appreciates and respects that the answer to those, ‘what happened to you, then?’ questions is something a disabled person might not actually want to go into on first meeting? We can hope, that’s for sure.

By increasing the voices – however they are expressed – of disabled people, we can hope to destabilise hegemonic practices and move together towards a better world. I hope to contribute towards this move with my research.  To be continued…

 Julia Daniels is a PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield. 15 years ago she was in a car accident which resulted in a head injury and paralysed right arm, but it was years before she got involved with critical disability studies. Now her research interests involve feminist approaches to disability, Voice Relational Methodology and the biopolitics of disability.

Together! 2015 Disability Film Festival 11-13 December, Stratford London

Together! 2015 Disability Film Festival 11-13 December, Stratford London


UK Disability History Month logo


As part of Disability History Month, we are happy to participate in the Together!2015 Disability Film Festival.

The programme is on the Together! 2015 DFF website.

There are many good discussions to be had and great films to discover – we recommend Margarita with a Straw (Saturday night 6.30pm)  in particular.! Some of us were there at the premiere last year and met some of the cast and dinner with Malini Chib.

But also Sunday night when we will be discussing Chocolate and other films depicting disability in films.

6.30pm: Chocolate ( Prachya Pinkaew; 89m; 2008). This feature-length drama from Thailand stars Yanin ‘Jeeja’ Vismistananda in her debut film performance as Zen, a young girl with autism who becomes a martial arts expert in her efforts to protect her family. Unsuitable for children and anyone who is sensitive to depictions of violence.

Followed by Let’s Talk about Disability Film with the Sisters of Frida at our café-bar partner Gerry’s, opposite the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Venue access

The Old Town Hall, 29 The Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible).Bus routes include 25, 69, 86, D8, 104, 108, 158, 238, 241, 257, 262, 276, 308, 425, 473, N8, N86, 010, A9, 741 & UL1.

Parking: Blue Badge holders can pre-book parking; others are advised to use the (old) Stratford shopping centre carpark.

  • There is no need to pre-book unless you are a group of 5 or more (email or phone or text 07973 252751).
  • All screenings are ‘relaxed’.
  • The venue is wheelchair-accessible.
  • There is an induction loop for hearing aid users.
  • Many films are captioned; some are in BSL too.
  • Please contact us if you require audio-description

Staysafe East on Providing Support to Underrepresented Groups and Communities Affected by Domestic Violence in London

Staysafe East on Providing Support to Underrepresented Groups and Communities Affected by Domestic Violence in London

There was a networking event organised by Safer London on 25th Nov – Providing Support to Underrepresented Groups and Communities Affected by Domestic Violence in London.

Ruth Bashall from Staysafe East gave a presentation on the work that they do. Sisters of Frida has many links with Staysafe Eastand supports the great work that they do.

Here are some of the notes from her presentation

Disabled people in general are 3 times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled people

• Disabled women 2 to 5 times are more likely to experience sexual violence than non-disabled women

• 50% of disabled women have experienced violence in their lives, 33% of non- disabled women

• Disabled children are 3 times as likely to be sexually abused than non-disabled children (most likely for disabled girls)

• Worldwide, 70% of women with learning difficulties report being victims of sexual assault (20% of women without earning difficulties) (UN). Sanction detection rates are very low.

• Disabled men are more likely than non-disabled men to be victims of domestic violence

• Hate crime and harassment, and institutional abuse are a common life

She also pointed out that there are many barriers

  • Disbelief – “how can anyone to that to her? she is so vulnerable, Her family want what’s best for her”
  •  A ‘vulnerable adults’/adults at risk framework that does not protect disabled victims
  • Inaccessible information and communication
  • Limited access to support services e.g. short term IDVA or counselling support, no 24 hour support in refuges, wheelchair access, BSL access, ‘don’t meet the criteria’
  • Housing, social care, access to mental health support etc
  • Discrimination in the criminal justice system

To support disabled women survivors of domestic violence,  she offers this advice

  • Be prepared and willing to support disabled and Deaf women
  • Provide disability equality training to staff and volunteers
  • Provide accessible support
  • Include disabled and deaf women amongst paid staff and volunteers
  • Ensure peer support is provided by disabled women to disabled women
  • Ensure accessible information is provided
  • Actively raise public awareness about violence against disabled women
  • Train other professionals about issues around violence against disabled women
  • Collaborate with disabled people’s organisations, including disabled women’s networks

Most importantly she uses the social model of disability approach, that is to say -not to focus primarily on impairments but the role of the environment and society in disability. She would also push for inclusive practice  so as to develop the peer support needed..


Other organisations represented there which gave presentations were Imkaan, Muslim Womens Network, Stonewall Housing, St Mungos Broadway

Karin Hitselberger writes Why We Need to Talk About Kylie Jenner

Karin Hitselberger writes Why We Need to Talk About Kylie Jenner

Many thanks to  Karin Hitselberger  for permission to reblog this – first posted on Karin’s own blog Claiming Crip.
Photo of Kylie Jenner on the cover of Interview .magazine siting in a gold wheelchair with her arms resting on the wheels, wearing black heels, and a black corset)

I never thought I would say this, but we need to talk about Kylie Jenner.

We need to talk about Kylie Jenner posing on the cover of Interview Magazine in a wheelchair. We need to realize that this is not a simple conversation. I cannot talk about Kylie Jenner posing in a wheelchair in a simple way, because this conversation is anything but simple. This is not just about whether it is okay for able-bodied people to use mobility aids and disability as edgy props to shock people. No, this is about so much more.

Kylie Jenner’s photo and the conversation around it made me uncomfortable as a disabled person, but not just because she was using a wheelchair as a prop. I was uncomfortable when I read Tweets that suggested that the wheelchair was used as a prop to symbolize the “limitations” Kylie Jenner experienced through being famous. That made my skin crawl. A wheelchair being symbolic of limitations, because the reality is that couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to talk about what a wheelchair really is.

For me, a full-time wheelchair user, my wheelchair does not represent limitations and restrictions; it represents freedom. Without my wheelchair I wouldn’t be able to leave my house, or even my bedroom. Without my wheelchair, I never would’ve been able to go to school or study abroad in England. Simply put, without my wheelchair, I would not have a life. My wheelchair is not restricting; it is the thing that allows me to have some determination about the way in which I move through the world. I am limited by inaccessible environments, ableism, discrimination, and inadequate access to things like personal care, accessible housing, employment, and accessible, adequate medical care. I am limited by a world that does not see disabled people as being fully equal to non-disabled people. We need to talk about the limitations and restrictions that exist in the world for disabled people, in this case, wheelchair users in particular, but we also need to realize that it Is society and social structures that cause these limitations, not the wheelchair in and of itself.

We need to talk about Kylie Jenner. We need to talk about privilege. We need to talk about the fact that for Kylie Jenner a wheelchair was nothing more than an edgy, sexy prop. We need to talk about why I cringe every time I see an able-bodied person use a wheelchair in this way. I promise you it’s not because I don’t think wheelchairs, and the people in them,can be beautiful and sexy, I know they can. Trust me when I say that I know that being in a wheelchair does not make you any less beautiful, sexy, or awesome than anybody else, but I also know that we live in a society that often times has a hard time seeing it. We need to talk about the fact that Kylie Jenner, a conventionally beautiful able-bodied woman who fits societal standards of beauty in almost every way is allowed to be sexy and edgy in a wheelchair, when that reality is so often denied to many wheelchair using women. We need to talk about the fact that disabled people, real disabled people, are still largely missing in media representation, especially media representation around beauty and sexuality.

We need to talk about the fact that Kylie Jenner is allowed to look edgy and sexy in a wheelchair but she has never had her ability to consent to sexual activity questioned because she was disabled. She has never had her sexuality interrogated by random strangers and put on display simply because she was sitting in a wheelchair. That wheelchair has never made her an item on a sexual bucket list that people want to try just to see what it would be like. Kylie Jenner has never heard the words, “You’re so pretty… For someone in a wheelchair.” She’s never experienced unwanted fetishization that seems to be so common for disabled women. She’s never had to balance feeling beautiful,  and sexual and being sexually attractive in a world that sees you as anything but that.

I’m not saying that Kylie Jenner has never experienced anything difficult in her life, but she is not experience what it is like to live and love as a disabled woman. Kylie Jenner has so many different privileges that I cannot list them all, and because of that she has a responsibility to realize that not all stories belong to her to use as edgy, provocative props. There is nothing wrong with realizing that wheelchairs can be beautiful, but one must also realize that they are not simple chairs.

Experiencing life in a wheelchair comes with a unique set of challenges that cannot be ignored. Being a wheelchair user means that you live in a world that is not set up for you. Being a wheelchair user means you experienced spaces on a daily basis where you are not meant to fit. Being a wheelchair user means learning to be proud of who you are in a world that tells you that you would be better off being almost anybody else. For most people, being a wheelchair user means learning to accept the scars or the spasms and the parts of your body that don’t work the way everyone else thinks they should. For me, being a wheelchair user means learning to see beauty, strength, and yes, even sexiness, where most people see brokenness. It means learning to define myself outside of societal standards of beauty, and being comfortable with who I am regardless of what everyone else thinks.

We need to talk about Kylie Jenner because this is not really about her. It is about how disability can be considered cool when used as a prop, but so often the lives of actually disabled people are seen as a terrible fate. It’s about the fact that so often disabled women are not given the opportunity to be seen as sexy and beautiful outside of the realm of fetishization. It’s about the fact that it is difficult to see a wheelchair as nothing more than a prop when it is so intertwined with the way that many people experience and move through the world.

I am not ashamed to be in a wheelchair. Being a wheelchair user is a complicated and beautiful experience filled with challenges, beauty, and a unique perspective on life. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that wheelchair users can be beautiful, strong, sassy, and sexy just like anybody else, and I don’t need Kylie Jenner, or any other able-bodied person to show me that.

Karin Karin Hitselberger is an American currently getting doing her Masters degree in disability studies from the University of Leeds in England. She firmly believe in disability rights, and that disability is not simply something that needs to be cured, but rather a valid life experience.

Feminists dye fountains red in anti-austerity protest

Feminists dye fountains red in anti-austerity protest
Feminists dye fountains red in anti-austerity protest

We joined Sisters Uncut for their Day of Mass Action Funeral March to protest the drastic, devastating cuts to domestic violence services. ‘We march in remembrance of all the services that have already been cut as a result of the government’s austerity measures, and all those we will lose if funding isn’t restored and ring-fenced.’

“Sisters Uncut held a funeral-themed protest in Soho Square at 12.00pm, to mourn domestic violence services that have had to close as a result of Osborne’s austerity measures. Members of the group wore funeral attire and black veils as they read out the names of all the women who have been killed as a result of domestic violence.

The protest was called in response to the government’s spending review, delivered this Wednesday. Further cuts to local council budgets were announced, which are set to prompt further closures of local domestic violence support services. In a statement released this week, the group describe Osborne’s “tampon tax” proposals as a “sticking plaster on a haemorrhage”.

After bringing traffic to a standstill on Charing Cross road, the march ended with a rally by the Trafalgar Square fountains, where hundreds of onlookers watched as the group shouted “They cut, we bleed” and listed their demands, including: no further cuts to domestic violence support services, and guaranteed funding for specialist support services that help black and minority ethnic (BME) women.

Since Osborne’s austerity measures in 2010, over 30 domestic violence support services have been forced to close. (1) The group are concerned that, as more services shut down, more women risk death at the hands of violent partners or ex-partners.

The event was attended by over 500 women, many of whom are domestic violence survivors and support workers. Their chants included “two women a week murdered” and “they cut, we bleed”. The march was timed in response to the government’s spending review on Wednesday 25th November, which coincided with the UN-sponsored International Day to End Violence Against Women.

Domestic violence support services are a lifeline for women fleeing domestic violence. Specialist services bear the brunt of these cuts, especially those that help black and minority ethnic (BME) women, LGBTQ+ people and disabled women.  Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence. “

We wrote a blog for them on disabled women and our experience of domestic violence. And decided that some of us would join them on the march at Soho Square – here are some of the photos.




More photos at the Sisters of Frida Flickr