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.Â 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.
Posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2016
Folks at Queer cafe were kind enough to invite Sisters of Frida to give a talkÂ 2nd October and offered to donate their takings for the evening.
Dyi Huijg and Eleanor Lisney went along that night and Dyi gave a talk on disability. We had a lively Questions and Answers session after the talk. We also had some excellent vegan food.
Thank you Queer Cafe people for being so kind and generous and giving us a great welcome!
They can be contacted at @queercaff
Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
Sisters of Frida was invited to give a workshop at the Plan UK #Standupforgirls Youth Action Fest last Saturday following the success of last year’s event. We were lucky that Fleur Perry agreed to help us run a workshop on Inclusive Campaigning.
Eleanor and Fleur had about 10 participants – we discussed access and showed a couple of videos and quite a few discussions. Participants were incensed to hear of Fleur’s difficulties to get to the event because her issues with wheelchair spaces on the train. We discussed disability itself and what it is – it was good to hear their perceptions and solutions towards more awareness. It was clear that they enjoyed Fleurs’s delivery and that she enjoyed it too.
Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016
When we were in NYC at the UNCSW in March earlier this year, we met Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube, Deputy Minister: Disability Affairs in the Republic of Namibia. She kindly agreed to be on the panel for our side event.
She said she would like to visit the UK to get some benchmarking ideas about independent living – we gave her some contacts including Inclusion London and European Network of Independent Living (ENIL) and arranged for her to visit a local Disabled People Organisation in Greenwich (GAD) and she also met with Sisters of Frida : Eleanor Lisney, Sophie Partridge, and Michelle Daley. Michelle Baharier (who was also at NYC for our panel) was able to join us later.
It was great to meet the group of people who came with her too in August and we hope they found the visit a useful one.
Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Sisters of Frida with the Women Enabled International provided evidence to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights of the United Kingdom. We focused on disabled women and specifically on violence against disabled women and domestic abuse.
Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2016
Last night one of my new colleagues expressed surprise on Â mention of my children â she said she had no idea I had children. She did not mean it to be malicious but the fact I have children prove surprising to most folks. I think, to be brutally honest, most people do not expect disabled people to be sexual beings let alone have offspring.
And for disabled women it is doubly problematic. Consider the stereotype of being a woman âas a caregiver, as a sex object, mother, housekeeper â you get the picture? Many of those roles are not seen to be within the capacity of disabled women. All the media, films of disability and sexuality are from the perspective of disabled men where they have their needs fulfilled by non-disabled women. Examples, Me Before You (even if he did not think it was enough to keep him living), The Sessions, there not many based on the needs of disabled women (excluding Children of a Lesser God).
There is not much space afforded to disabled women on sexuality and how to factor in disability in the search for companionship, romance, relationships and sex. The narratives are missing. I was made aware how much so when I joined the group of women who went to the first workshop (there are a series of four workshops) lead by Sisters of Frida steering group members, Lani Parker and Dyi Huijg, on Dis/ability and Sexuality. This workshop was titled Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way
As disabled women we have a wide range of experiences, positive and negative, around disability, sex and sexuality. Disabled women are sexy, sexual, passionate, loving, caring, desirable, hot, beautiful, strong and much more! Our experiences of sexuality are also affected by different kinds of oppressions such as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.
In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others
I felt we really shared our experiences as disabled women intersected by faith, culture, and sexual orientation. We examined the differences with impairments, acquired and from a young age, we spoke about chronic illnesses, the barriers and effects of medication and age. Does sex alleviate pain, do we/should we have sex when we are in pain? We compared the attitudes of social workers, medical practitioners and partners â in and out of relationships, domestic abuse from families, society and community pressures.
I cannot wait for the next session. I hope more people will come to visit this wonderful space where we afford each other sisterhood and non-judgemental sharing.
Themes and dates of the workshops
Workshop 1: Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way (finished)
In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others.
Date: Sat 30 July
Workshop 2: When It Doesnât Feel Good and It Isnât Right
In this workshop we will discuss negative experiences and difficulties we have around sex and sexuality, our boundaries, consent, privacy and ableism in relationships.
Date: Sat 27 Aug
Workshop 3: Disabled Desire: Sexy and Sensual Possibilities
In this workshop we will discuss positive experiences we have and want to have around sex and sexuality, pleasure, and what it means to desire and be desired.
Date: Sat 17 Sept
Workshop 4: Sex: Getting What You Want and Need
Here we will build on the other workshops, and discuss how to develop confidence and feel empowered to do and want sex differently, challenge internalised oppression and other obstacles, and talk about how to put our desires and needs into practice.
Date: Sat 22 Oct
this project was funded by
Eleanor Lisney is a founder member and coordinator of Sisters of Frida. She is an access advisor, an NUJ member on the New Media Industrial Council and the Equality Council. She is also on the British Council Disability Advisory Panel and the web team of the International Network of Women with Disabilities.
Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2016
SISTERS FRIDA â DISABLED WOMENâS VOICES FROM THE FRONTLINE
Blackfriars Settlement 9 July 2016
END PANEL DISCUSSION
Panel: Kirsten Hearn, Miss Jacqui, Pauline Latchen, Eleanor Lisney, Becky Olaniyi,
Jagoda Risteska, Jasmina Risteska, Annabel Crowley
Contributers: Michelle Daley, Dyi,
Eleanor introduced an update from Dyi. The Disability and Sexuality project that Djy
and Lani have piloted with an initial meeting last autumn has now got funding to go
ahead. The next meeting will be in July at the New Union Church Hall and thereafter
every month. The project will provide a safe space to discuss issues around
disability and sexuality. More information and details are listed on the Sisters of
Annabel noted that the day had involved lots of interesting and powerful
conversations. The Brexit vote had provided a focus for discussion: the situation
was already difficult before we faced leaving the European Union and things will be
likely to get more difficult: now is the time to make sure we have a voice.
Eleanor commented that if she had not been at this event, she would have been at
Conway Hall to support a rally of Black Activists Against Racism to protest against
spending cuts. As she was unable to attend that rally, Eleanor had written a letter of
support and solidarity which she read out.
Annabel asked everyone what were their concerns in the light of Brexit.
Becky said that she felt there was not a lot of clear information about Brexit,
especially for young people; they should have had an opportunity to contribute and
make decisions. Older people believed that leaving the EU would mean that the
money saved would be paid into the NHS etc. Young people had mainly voted to
remain in the EU but were not really clear why â and people needed to be clear
Dyi raised the issue of being an EU citizen living in the UK going forward. We need
to think about the reality of that situation, for example in relation to peopleâs status
with the NHS. This is a real issue for EU citizens in the UK who rely on the NHS â
though of course it may be different for those who donât. However, Dyi pointed out,
there is also a lot of inequality in relation to healthcare within the rest of the EU.
Annabel asked if Dyi would be looking for wider consultation with EU migrants to
have more information about the implications of Brexit for them. Dyi replied that she
is looking into the legal implications and building up an information bank on relevant
services as a resource which she will be happy to share with others.
Michelle said that we donât know what the future will look like. She had voted to
remain in the EU, and there was not, had not been, enough information about what
Brexit would look like, or how our lives will be changed by it.
Kirsten said that the whole Brexit campaign had been based on lies, especially about
the NHS and migration. Secondly, all the years of austerity have influenced people,
especially poorer people: these people see migrants and refugees as competing with
them for jobs, services and benefits and these myths are further spread by
politicians, who paint migrants as lazy scroungers. Migrants enrich our country,
however, and it is not true that all migrants come to Britain to claim benefits rather
than to work. Kirsten said that in her local community there has been an increase in
racial hate crime and that the referendum result is advisory rather than mandatory
and parliament should act accordingly. The government should now consider what
things can stay the same and what should change: for example things like
wheelchair spaces on buses and braille labelling, these sorts of things should stay.
Michelle said that when her parents came to the UK, there were signs in public
spaces saying âNo dogs, no Irish, no Blacksâ and we are going back to those days
and with the same discrimination against disabled people.
Miss Jacqui said that the people who had voted to leave didnât really know what they
were voting for. Whatever political party is in power, disabled people â disabled
women especially, will be at the bottom of the agenda. Politicians donât consider
that the decisions they make now will still affect us in ten yearsâ time. Starting a new
political party is the only solution. She was not happy with David Cameron as prime
minister but is not happy at what may follow his resignation. We need to find and
develop our voice and consider where does it feel safe to talk.
Becky said so many politicians are leaving their jobs, and Michelle said it was their
job to have a plan (going forward). Becky said politicians exist in a bubble, all this
doesnât affect them, they donât think: itâs about the money they can make, the secret
deals and they only think about what affects them. Kirsten said she felt quite
Annabel said we do have voices however we express ourselves. How do we build
and expand on safe spaces to express ourselves? Kirsten said that we need to talk
to the communities that voted for Brexit, especially poor people, people who are
alienated. She is trying to talk to people in her street who voted leave, to try to
understand why they did â we havenât listened to them in the past. One issue is
employment: people going for jobs, not that skilled, which go to migrants: âTheyâre
taking our jobsâ. That, and well qualified people paid low wages for jobs theyâre over-
qualified for and all the time the right-wing press reinforce the view that migrants are
Dyi said that there is a history of colonialism, racism and imperialism and we should
consider what Sisters of Frida can do to support each other. Annabel said we should
consider what resources â communities and spaces â we can build on and share.
Pauline said that wages are being driven down but itâs not the fault of migrant
workers: low wages here are better than whatâs on offer in their own countries. We
should blame the government and business owners, not the migrants. Miss Jacqui
said that some people are really picky about what jobs they will take: if you really
want a job youâll take anything, you will find a job. Blaming migrants is just an
excuse. Michelle said the government is using a tactic of divide, rule and conquer
and what happened in the referendum is just history repeating itself.
In conclusion, Annabel said the discussion could continue on line: this is one way we
can add disabled womenâs voices to the discussion. Maybe there could be a Brexit
forum page on the SOF website; a lot of disability rights have come from the EU and
therefore the discussion could link in disabled friends in Europe.
All present were invited to pass on their email addresses to receive further updates.
Posted on Saturday, August 13th, 2016
Here are the videos from the dayÂ Disabled Womenâs Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am â 4.30pmÂ
Introduction by Annabel Crowley
Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper
transcript coming soon
Guests speakers – Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska
Many thanks to for funding this event
Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
Svetlana went to speak about the CRPD Article 6 invited by the Polish Disability Forum and their partners on Sisters of Frida’s behalf on 13th July. This was part of the project âImplementation of the UN Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons â a common causeâ . This is co-funded from the EUâs European Social Fund.
Below is her presentation.
Disabled women and CRPD
Disabled women are one of the most marginalised groups in the world.
According to UN they are
- 3 times less likely to be literate compared to disabled men
- Twice less likely to be in employment. When in jobs, they are much more likely to do low paid work
- Disabled women are much more likely to be victims of violence and often have to endure it for longer, because appropriate support is not there.
- 50% of disabled women have experienced domestic abuse compared with 25% of non-disabled women.
- Disabled women are twice as likely to be assaulted or raped as non-disabled women.
Both men and women with a limiting illness or disabilities are more likely to experience intimate partner violence.
- A study of women who access mental health services identified between 50% and 60% had experienced domestic violence, and up to 20% were currently being abused
- Disabled women are less likely to have access to health services, including family planning and contraception advice. Some are subjected to invasive procedures such as sterilisation or abortions without their consent.
- Disabled women are overrepresented among those parents whose children are being removed.
There are many reasons for this appalling situation disabled women face. Those reasons are complex. Disabled women were largely overlooked by feminist movement and although disability rights movement was largely gender neutral, it until recently failed to address the specific needs of disabled women. Thatâs why the CRPD is so important for disabled women.
Before moving to talk about the convention, I want to tell you a couple of stories of disabled women.
Aisha is deaf. She lives with her husband and their 2 children. Her husband works and she depends on him financially. He also is the only adult person who helps her to be in touch with the hearing world. She also relies on the help from her children, but sometimes it is just not appropriate to ask them to interpret. Whenever she has medical appointments or just needs to go to her childrenâs school or shops her husband or children have to interpret for her. From very beginning of their marriage he was abusive to her. He often hit her and sometimes raped her. She tried to talk to her parents about this, but they told her to be kind to him, as in their view it is worse to be alone, than to be with him. Friends told her to call the police next time he beats her, but she is afraid. She knows there isnât anywhere she can go to, she depends on him totally. Police are not likely to believe her and what will happen to her if he leaves?
Mary has learning difficulties. She lives in a home with other people with learning difficulties. Mary fell in love, had sex and became pregnant. She was told about sexuality or given advice about contraception she did not realise what was happening to her. Her parents wanted her to have an abortion, but could not achieve this, as Mary did not agree. While she was pregnant nobody told her what would happen at birth or spoken to her about looking after her child. Mary had a very traumatic experience at birth and after that her daughter was removed.
UN CRPD is an international instrument that protects both of those women and all other disabled women in the world.
The Convention recognises equality between women and men as one of its key principles. When it was developed, it has been decided to take a twin track approach, meaning that there is a specific article about disabled women along with specific mentions of gender in other articles. The convention seeks to address some of the specific areas where disabled women are most discriminated against.
Article 6, a specific article about disabled women recognises that they face multiple discrimination and requires states to take all appropriate measures to ensure disabled women can enjoy their human rights on the equal basis with others. Art. 6 is a cross cutting article. It therefore should be applied to all the rights in the convention.
Art 6 has 2 parts.
First it is about multiple discrimination disabled women face. Many of us have multiple identities and we are impacted by discrimination cumulatively as disabled women. Multiple discrimination is discrimination based on more than one status. Its effects can combine or grounds can interlink. Disabled womenâs situation is often influenced by the fact of both disability and gender. Other factors such as race and ethnicity or economic situation can also have a huge impact.
Multiple discrimination can happen in private and public sphere and the states have a duty to protect in both.
Discrimination disabled women face can take a form of direct discrimination, when disabled women are specifically excluded because of their gender and disability. Indirect discrimination â when policies seem neutral, but have disproportionate effect on disabled women. In the UK for example we argued that disabled women suffered the most from the recent austerity measures.
A denial of reasonable accommodation is also discriminatory. When disabled women for example cannot access breast cancer screening programmes because there is no equipment to accommodate their access needs it can be seen as a denial of reasonable adjustments.
It is important therefore to recognise that violence against disabled women, lack of access to health or maternity services, socio-economic situation of disabled women or lack of their participation and non-existence of their voices in political debate are all caused by multiple discrimination they face. It is also important to remember that disabled women are a very diverse group and there is a great inequality even within this group.
Do we hear the voices of women from ethnic minority backgrounds?
Do we hear the voices of women with learning difficulties?
Do we know the experiences of LGBT disabled women?
Development, advancement and empowerment
The second part of article 6 talks about the need to take all appropriate measures to secure development, advancement and empowerment of disabled women.
Development means giving women better chance in life by developing their skills and knowledge, improving education, economic situation, health, political participation etc. Advancement requires ensuring situation constantly improves.
Empowerment moves women from subjects of pity to right holders and decision makers. In order to be empowered women need to know about their rights and often need a chance to support each other and help each other have a voice. Empowerment is not only about taking part in political life, for many it is about standing up for themselves, being heard within their families, feeling confident and able to make choices. Empowerment is about feeling you are of an equal worth with others and you are making equal contribution in your own way.
In short stateâs obligations towards disabled women include the following:
Respect – not to take measures that undermine the development, advancement and empowerment of disabled women and girls. For example not to Introduce policies that may have a detrimental impact on disabled women or weaken protections disabled women already had.
Protect âensure private bodies do not infringe the rights
For example passing the laws that protect disabled women against violence.
Obligation to protect requires states to prevent, investigate, provide redress and protect the victims. In a context of violence, the states need to look at the positive measures they are taking to prevent it from happening. Are there effective ways for reporting it? Many of us need support to do this. Will those reports be investigated and will perpetrators be punished. Most importantly, will a disabled women who experienced violence get support to deal with it and move on. For many this support should include help to live independently in the community. Many of us are afraid to flee violent relationships, because we depend on the perpetrators not only financially, but also for support with our care needs.
Fulfil â To adopt measures needed to secure the development, advancement and empowerment. This requires specific resources and actions to advance the equality for disabled women.
It is really important to ensure there is enough information to assess the situation of disabled women. Thatâs why the collection of data is vital. The data that is collected about disabled people should be desegregated by gender. On the other hand, the data about women should include the data about disabled women specifically.
When CRPD was developed disabled people, including disabled women played a key part in the process. Nothing about us without us was truly acted upon. And CRPD recognises that disabled people, including disabled women should be involved in the process of implementation of the Convention and itâs monitoring.
It is important to remember that obligations in art 6 are immediately applicable, states cannot rely on progressive realisation.
Now I would like to focus on some specific areas of particular concern. Those are:
- Violence against disabled women and girls,
- Sexuality, reproductive rights and motherhood
- And socio-economic situation
As I said at the beginning we are more likely to be victims of violence. Disabled women are likely to endure it for longer and have very little opportunities to escape. Violence happens because of dependency generally, but dependency of disabled women can be much greater. Perpetrator is often our carer, and sometimes the only carer. We feel it is much harder for us to make it alone. Who would look after us if we lose our main carer? Many of us are afraid to lose children. The feeling of being trapped is very strong and can be caused by many factors which link together.
We are often targeted because of stereotypes, limited mobility, social isolation, economic dependency, difficulties with communication ect.
Our abusers can be family members, support workers, staff at institutions. We often are made to feel grateful for all the help they give us, so we feel powerless to stand up to them and complain. General public largely is sorry for them for the hard life they have looking after a disabled person, do they care about us? probably not. We are often not believed. How those who look after us could abuse us? And they can always find justifications. Many parents for example who want their daughters sterilised justify this as a way to protect them.
Many of us donât even know that what we endure is not normal. We donât always know where to go for help and what to say to get help. Some of us need communication support to ask for help, and often rely on perpetrators or other family members to provide it.
Those who do report violence and try to flee often find themselves in a situation where there is nowhere to go. Many of us have to choose either getting some support in an abusive relationship or not getting support for our disability at all.
Sexuality, reproductive rights and motherhood
When I was young, I was often told that people like me should not have children. It is often assumed that disabled women either cannot or should not be mothers. They should not have sex and should not know about it.
Many of us never get sex education. We do not always get family planning advice. Sometimes our families or professionals looking after us get advice on our behalf and make us undergo invasive treatments, such as abortions or sterilisations. We often canât access reproductive health services or screening programmes for females.
Those of us who have children are constantly afraid to do something wrong. We cannot ask for help because our children could be taken away.
On one hand we are discriminated and marginalised like all other women are, but on the other, we also have to battle the assumptions that we cannot fulfil a female gender role.
When I apply for jobs I know the employers would firstly be reluctant to offer a job to me because I am disabled, but also because I AM A WOMAN.
Disability causes poverty and on the other hand poverty leads too much greater chance of disability.
Disabled women are less likely to be in work and if they are they earn less. We are disproportionately more likely to be a part of informal economy.
This is why we have to rely on services and the support from social security system. Disabled women are more likely to rely on services and would be disproportionately affected by austerity measures.
Gender and disability mainstreaming
One way to ensure the specific needs of disabled women are met in the policymaking is to implement gender and disability mainstreaming. It is important to analyse the policies and assess their possible impact on disabled women. Disabled women should benefits from programmes targeted at women or at disabled people in general.
Disabled women are women and like all other women they are also protected by other international human rights instruments, CEDAW for example. Disabled women should enjoy all the rights guaranteed by CEDAW like all other women and as part of disability mainstreaming, disabled women should be considered when states monitor the implementation of CEDAW.
And finally, I would like to reiterate this point again. It is important to recognise that we all are different our different voices need to be heard and different experiences should be valued and taken into account.
Svetlana Kotova is one of the founding members of Sisters of Frida. She has conducted training on the CRPD with Disability Lib and is theÂ Policy and Campaigns Advisor at Sense. She is also the proud mother of a toddler daughter.
Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
Posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2016
While we had our event Disabled Women Voices from the Frontline event today at Blackfriars Settlement, we found out that there was another meeting in Conway Hall –Â BREXIT, Racism and XenophobiaÂ Â to discuss the impact of the referendum vote on BAME communities across the UK organised by The Monitoring Group –Â some of us would have liked to be there.
We prepared our own response with a message and we had a panel discussion on the Brexit impact on disabled women which was passionate and we came to a conclusion of continuing the discussion.
Here is the message
We would like to send a message of solidarity to this meeting as we are holding our own event at Blackfriars Settlement Disabled Women Voices from the Frontline.
Sisters of Frida (SOF) is a disabled women’s collective. We are a collective for allÂ self-identified disabled women, and we are committed to an intersectional perspective on our day to day realities.
Sisters of Frida condemns the increase in racist attacks after the Referendum and is concerned how these attacks and Brexit affect disabled women, Â particularly disabled women of colour.
We are concerned about how dis/ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia affect disabled women. As part of the disabled community, we have seen a rise in disability hate crime in recent years too.
Sisters of Frida is worried how disabled women of colour and European migrants have become pawns in the current political situation and are facing multiple discrimination and exclusion.
We are concerned about how Brexit and the conversations after Brexit are scapegoating thoseÂ reliant on the NHS and other health related and welfare support and benefits.
We are also concerned how disabled people are portrayed and treated. As Sisters of Frida, we are particularly concerned about how Brexit affects disabled women in the UK who are EU nationals. We are disquiet how this affects British and non-EU migrant disabled people in the UK, particularly those of people of colour, Muslim, LGBT and European communities. We are also worried by the impact on disabled people who rely on migrant workers to support their independent livingand how Brexit would exacerbate austerity cuts.
We hope your meeting will be fruitful. Let us unite in working together in moving forward towards a fair and just society, with an inclusive, supportive and safe environment in the future.
Unity is strength!
Some of the photos from today’s event Â – more photos and video to come later.