logo

Bringing disabled women together, mobilising
and sharing through lived experiences

Subscribe To Newsletter

Why Sisters of Frida?

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016


logo: picture of a green and yellow bird with a blue background in a stamp like frame, perforated edge.

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/

See our last AGM with the new Steering Group.

Solidarity message from grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations in the UK for people in #charlottesville

Posted on Thursday, August 17th, 2017


Intersectionality is a core consideration in everything we do at Sisters of Frida. In this case, we are very glad that other DPOs agreed to join us in this statement of solidarity to the people involved at #Charlottesville and in the light of what we see happening in the streets of the USA right now.

A statement of solidarity agreed by grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations in the UK for the people of #charlottesville

We, as grassroots disabled people’s organisations in the UK, are horrified by the violence we see in your cities and the racism and fascism that motivated it, and we are extremely concerned by the failure of the authorities to protect the people on your streets.

We have racism and fascism here in the UK too and we send you our absolute solidarity.

As disabled people, we see people of colour, people of ethnic minorities and immigrants, many of whom are also disabled- being systematically abused and oppressed in our country by our own government, and its associated corporations and media.

In solidarity with the victims, their families and the city of Charlottesville (and other cities affected), we declare that racism and fascism, like misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, disableism and religious bigotry, should not be tolerated anywhere in the world.

signed by

Sisters of Frida

Disabled People against cuts (National DPAC)

Inclusion London

DPAC WM

Dudley CIL

Merton CIL

Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights(Scotland)

Manchester DPAC

Recovery In The Bin.

Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE)

Disabled International Residents (Disire)

 

If you want to add your (organisation) signature, please email hello@sisofrida.org

Peer led skills development course for disabled women

Posted on Monday, August 7th, 2017


women in groups - one at a table bsuy conversing with each other

At a Sisters of Frida event

Following our successful projects ‘Disabled women’s voices from the frontline’ and ‘Disability and Sexuality’, Sisters of Frida are excited to launch a new peer-led skills development course for disabled women, led by disabled women. This course is supported by a grant from Rosa, The UK Fund for Women and Girls.

 

The project will run from September 2017 until May 2018 and will give participants opportunities to

 

  • develop facilitation, presentation and research skills
  • gain and share knowledge in an area of interest
  • put this knowledge into practice
  • meet and work with new people

 

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 number of further sessions tailored specifically to the needs of 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. This could include building campaigns, arts and self-expression, challenging interpersonal violence – the possibilities are endless! You will then share the skills and knowledge through a workshop designed and led by you.

 

Where and when

The first part of the course will take place on the weekend of the 16-17th September at the YHA in Kings Cross, Central London. This will be a facilitation skills course.

 

The structure and timings of the following workshops will be agreed by the group following this initial training.

 

Who is it for?

The course is for any self-identified disabled women (trans, intersex and cis) non-binary and gender non-conforming people but not people who identify solely or primarily as men. Sisters of Frida follows the social model. We especially encourage people who do not have much previous experience in facilitation, public speaking and events-organising, and if interest exceeds spaces, we will prioritise those with less experience.

 

There are limited spaces on this program. If you think you may be interested, please get in touch by the 1st of September. Please tell us a little bit (just a few words) about what you’re interested in and why you would like to participate.

If you need a BSL interpreter or other access needs, please let us know asap.

Contact: hello@sisofrida.org / 07876 742600

Empty Room with a long rounded end table with 12 black chairs. There are pictures on the light walls.

Meeting room at the YHA, 79-81 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2QE

Sisters of Frida’s Accessibility Guide to Meetings and Events – a Toolkit

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2017


With thanks to the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) Catalyst grant as part of the Disability/Sexuality project, we have an Accessibility Guide to Meetings and Events – a Toolkit

This resource is downloadable, feel free to use but please do credit us if you do and send us comments if we need to add anything.

Sisters-of-Frida-access-v.7 (PDF version)

Sisters-of-Frida-access-v.7 (Word version)

Zara Todd to Brussels as new ENIL Director!

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.

 

Zara (in white rainwear) with Sisters of Frida  Eleanor with banner , Lucia behind Eleanor with stipey umbrella and Ines (from ECCL) behind Zara. Miro is also there with PA and Kate, with black umbrella

Zara (in white rainwear) with Sisters of Frida at the 2013 Freedom Drive in Strasbourg,  Eleanor with banner , Lucia behind Eleanor with black stripey umbrella and Ines (from ECCL) behind Zara. Miro (from ENIL) is also there with his PA and Kate, with black umbrella

 

Zara with John Evans at Freedom Drive in Brussels 2015 . Shes wearing the Freedom Drive tee shirt under her coat

Zara with John Evans at Freedom Drive in Brussels 2015

 

Zara Todd: I Will Not Settle

Posted on Monday, June 26th, 2017


young white woman wheelchair user holding a microphone. She has long brown hair and the flooring is brilliant red while the other people are in a blur.

Zara Todd speaking at an event

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 ‘that’ 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, a white woman, is smiling at the camera. she has black rimmed glasses on Zara Todd is a Sisters of Frida’s director.

Twitter @toddles23

A Tribute to Sophie Partridge

Posted on Monday, June 12th, 2017


 

woman in wheelchair being photographed by woman in silhouette

Sophie being photographed, part of the video shoot for Women Speak Out!

 

Sophie Partridge

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.

 

 

 

Group of women and one man, in a semi circle. One East Asian, one white and 2 black women

Meeting with Alexia Manombe-Ncube, Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs, from Namibia

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:

Michelle Daley

​”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.”
Zara Todd
“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”
Lani Parker
“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.”
Eleanor Lisney
“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.”​
Women in a group, one black woman seated on a chair, 3 wheelchair users and one women with arms spread out.

some of the AGM2017 attendees

Some links about /or showing Sophie’s work/s

The Stage – Actor and disability campaigner Sophie Partridge dies 

Graeae In memory of Sophie Partridge

London, my London

Sophie Partridge – Shape Creatives: a film by David Hevey

Writer and performer Sophie Partridge on the closure of the Independent Living Fund

Sophie Partridge tells a story

 

——

written by Sisters of Frida team

Exciting new project on skills development for Sisters of Frida!

Posted on Friday, May 12th, 2017


about eleven/twelve women looking/listening intently. some are wheelchair users.

Participants at a previous Sisters of Frida event

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’s 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 hello@sisofrida.org

rosa fund logo

In memory of Eleanor Firman

Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2017


Eleanor Firman in Geneva UN, 2013

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’s 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’s Caucus for some time. She had wanted to be a Labour councillor in her ward.

One detail that might not be commonly known is that Eleanor was an accomplished musician and a composer before she changed her focus onto activism and campaigning.

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 – 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’s 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.

See also ROFA Newsletter March 2017, UN Disability Committee Special

4 people in front of the UN building, 3 white women with white man at the back. They are crouching.

ROFA team at the UN in Geneva

ROFA (Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance) Shadow Report (WORD doc)  (PDF ) and List of Issues (WORD doc) (PDF)  Sisters of Frida is a member of ROFA.

 

2017 Sisters of Frida AGM

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.

 

  1. Welcome & Introductions

 

The meeting began with housekeeping and introductions, and confirmation of photo consent from those attending.

 

  1. Achievements of the past year:

 

Disabled Women’s 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’s Feminist Salon at Oxford University with Eleanor and Zara discussing intersectionality at that event.

Spoke at

Fawcett Society annual conference(Eleanor)

Green Party Conference (attended by Sarah)

Global Disabled Women’s 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’s Resource Centre  on disadvantaged women’s  (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’s Resource Centre.

  • Sisters of Frida in Three Years’ Time

Lani introduced a group exercise to understand where people would like Sisters of Frida to be in 3 years’ time.  Everyone present assembled into groups of 3 – 4, with each group aiming to achieve 1 – 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.

 

group of 9 women, 4 are wheelchair users. There is a male child of mixed heritage. here are 2 East Asians and 2 black women. one woman had both her hands out in an embracing gesture

group photo at the end of the AGM

other photos from the AGM are on the flickr.