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.
Facebook group (for UK residents) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisofrida/
Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/sistersoffrida/
Posted on Friday, September 22nd, 2017
The UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published its concluding observations following its first review of the UK governmentâs compliance with the Convention. We contributed to the report and went to Geneva, as volunteers, to ensure that violations of disabled womenâs rights were given attention. The Committee highlighted many areas of concerns which explicitly or indirectly affect disabled women, but weâve highlighted three key themes below.
1) Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us
We share the Committeeâs concern that disabled women and girlsâ rights âhave not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agendaâ and support its specific recommendation to âadopt inclusive and targeted measures, including disaggregated dataâ to prevent the multiple and intersectional discrimination we face.
Mainstreaming our rights, requires our involvement. We therefore also welcome the Committeeâs recommendation to allocate âfinancial resources to support organisations representing [disabled women]â and develop mechanisms to ensure our involvement in planning and implementing law which affects our lives. For example, we were not consulted on the drafting of the coercive abuse offence in the Serious Crime Act. If we had, we would have been able to show how the âbest interestsâ defence for carers dangerously undermines the rights and safety of disabled women and people with learning disabilities.
Strategies need to be measured, financed and monitored. We therefore welcome the Committeeâs recommendation for mechanisms to support our involvement in the design of strategies to implement the Convention through âmeasurable, financed and monitored strategic plans of actionâ. Measurability requires the collection of disaggregated data and this has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.
2) Multiple and Intersectional Discrimination
Disabled women experience sexism and dis/ableism in our everyday lives, along with many other forms of oppression (eg. based on age, sexual orientation, economic status and migrant status). Hereâs an example to illustrate. A visually impaired woman cannot access information on an NHS website due to inaccessibility. This is disability discrimination, but is gender-neutral. However, lack of access to family planning services is clearly gender and disability discrimination. If she is actually a teenage girl living in a remote indigenous community, clearly intersections of multiple aspects of her identity operate to exacerbate the disadvantages she faces.
This is why the Convention specifically addresses the rights of disabled women in Article 6. It requires the Government to recognize that disabled women and girls face multiple discrimination. Itâs therefore crucial that the Government implement the Committeeâs recommendation to explicitly incorporate protection from âmultiple and intersectional discriminationâ in national legislation. Whether itâs routine GP appointments, cervical testing or maternity care, disabled women constantly struggle to access medical services, so we strongly support the Committeeâs recommendation to develop âtargeted measurable and financedâ strategies to eliminate barriers in access to health care and services and to measure their progress.â
3) Access to Justice
Our rights are worthless if they are unenforceable or ignored. The barriers with the justice system are procedural, financial and accessibility-related and stop us from bringing claims to enforce our civil rights, count against us in proceedings (eg divorce and family matters) and prevent us from reporting criminal abuse against us.
We therefore strongly support the Committeeâs recommendations:
- to develop training for the judiciary and law enforcement personnel. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has already noted concerns about âwomen being deemed unfit mothers for having âfailed to protectâ their children from an abusive parentâ. Ignorant, counterproductive and damaging comments and actions by judges and police must end.
- to provide âfree or affordable legal aidâ for disabled people in all areas of law. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has specifically noted concern about the evidential requirements to apply for legal aid and the consequences for family law problems.
The many other areas of concern noted by the Committee can be read here
We were disappointed by the lack of media attention given to the 17-page catalogue of shame but the disabled community, including the DPOs, continue to valiantly highlight the UNâs findings.
Whilst we welcome the Committeeâs recommendation for the UK Government to produce annual reports on its progress, we fear it will be another exercise of denial and lack data, evidence or understanding of intersectional discrimination.
We, Sisters of Frida, are preparing for CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and working with other womenâs organisations on this. In the meantime, we are joining the ENIL Freedom March in Brussels and will raise it with our MEPs as to how they will be responding to protecting disabled women on VAWG as the Istanbul Convention is being ratified by the UK government.
Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO of the Women Resource Centre says:
“The last time Sisters of Frida went with the UK CEDAW Working Group to Geneva, we noted in our oral statement that women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK are facing threats to their rights but this does not have to be the case if government policies are created in partnership with womenâs NGOs and include a gendered perspective. This will ensure that there is not a long-term legacy of discrimination against women, and will also impact on the future economy.
In 2017, Sisters of Frida note that disabled women are acknowledged as still facing the same level of discrimination in the UNCRPD Concluding Observations. We call upon the UK government to honour its commitment to womenâs rights and work with us to establish a clear and inclusive mechanism in order to bring womenâs voices into the heart of government.â
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Co-Director of the Womenâs Budget Group said:
âWe know that disabled women have been hit particularly badly by austerity policies over the last seven years. Disabled women have lost income through cuts to both specific disability benefits but also to housing benefit, tax credits and benefits for children. Cuts to public services including social care, health, education and transport budgets have all disproportionately affected disabled women.
The Public Sector Equality Duty, contained in the 2010 Equality Act, places a positive obligation on all public authorities to have due regard to the impact of their policies and practices on equality. Despite this the government have failed to publish meaningful assessments of the cumulative impact of austerity on equality.
We call on the government to meet both their obligations under both domestic and international law to ensure that their policies meet the needs of disabled womenâ
Sarah Green, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“It is known that disabled women are disproportionately subjected to sexual and domestic violence by perpetrators of these crimes, and that disabled women face additional barriers to escaping and staying safe, and even in being believed.
“International human rights treaties require our Government to ensure that disabled women’s needs are specifically considered and addressed when implementing policy on policing and preventing violence. Following the UN CRDP inquiry into the UK’s performance in this area, we need to hear assurances from the UK Government that disabled women’s needs are known and are made part of policy and practice in relation to ending and preventing abuse.”
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters said:
âLeave no woman behindâ is an important development and human rights goal that is central to achieving gender equality and one to which the UK government claims to be committed. But in the UK this goal remains largely rhetorical as the most vulnerable women – those with disabilities and multiple needs – are rendered marginalised and invisible by increasingly harsh economic and social welfare measures. Disabled womenâs needs and rights are being gravely and systematically violated by the UK government. Why else do we see such an appalling lack of access to emergency shelters, secure housing and welfare rights, education, work, health and counselling facilities for disabled women who are also fleeing domestic violence? If the UK wants to be recognised as a leader in disability and human rights, it must develop laws, policies and strategies that enhance the rights of all women. This means understanding and addressing the overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination such as race, gender and disability that create additional vulnerabilities and barriers for women. Sadly this government is unlikely to turn its rhetoric on achieving a âfairerâ society into reality but we are ready to stand with our disabled sisters to shame the government into action.
Lee Eggleston on behalf of Rape Crisis England and Wales said:
âDisabled women who have experienced sexual violence make up a quarter of Rape Crisis service users – which is an indication of how disproportionately disabled women are impacted by sexual violence, often by their own carers. The voice and engagement of specialist organisations run by and for disabled women, like Sisters of Frida and Stay Safe East, is essential to the CEDAW process in raising awareness of sexual violence to the Committee.â
We would be happy to hear from others, individuals and/or organisations, who would like to join us in our campaign for disabled women’s rights in issues mentioned here. Please comment below or write to email@example.com, tweet @sisofrida
Note: Stay Safe East is a unique user-led organisation run by disabled people, providing specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled people from diverse communities in East London (currently Waltham Forest and Newham) who are victims/survivors of domestic or sexual violence, hate crime, harassment and other forms of abuse.
Posted on Monday, September 4th, 2017
We have a couple of places left for the peer led skills development course for disabled women
We are amazed by the women that have applied to be on the course. Glad that there are a couple of spaces left if anybody else wants to apply.
Please see the link above for information about the project. More information will be given when a place has been confirmed. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend or for any questions. Please let us know your access needs too.
The facilitators for these sessions are:
Lani Parker has worked on disability issues in various capacities including taking part in many campaigns, facilitating training, and working within disabled peopleâs organisations in the areas of advice, information and advocacy. She has a particular passion for doing the work of connecting social justice issues.
Lani is the Community and Legal Service coordinator for Enfield Advice Plus Partnership ProjectÂ at Enfield Disability Action. She is involved in a number of disabled people’s groups and has taken part in many sctions She was co facilitator for the Sisters of Frida’s Disability Sexuality workshop last year.
Nim RalphÂ has over 10 yearsâ experience as a trainer and facilitator, with specialisms in equalities and diversity work/anti-oppression and campaigning. They are Lead Trainer at Campaign Bootcamp and have facilitated for a wide range of groups and organisations ranging from the Girl Guides to Transgender Europe. Nim worked for Drake Music for the last 3 years, which focuses on Disability, music and technology.
Posted on Friday, September 1st, 2017
The UK Governmentâs claim to be a âworld leader in disability issuesâ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the governmentâs compliance with the Convention.
The Observations conclude last weekâs public examination of the UK Governmentâs record on delivering disabled peopleâs rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be âthe most challenging exercise in the history of the Committeeâ. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Governmentâs failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the governmentâs âlack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiryâ which found âgrave and systematic violations of disabled peopleâs human rightsâ.
Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed as the genuine âworld leadersâ for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.
The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs Organisations has issued the following joint statement:
âToday the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Governmentâs record on Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is no longer acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.
UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment. Â However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.
DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Governmentâs blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.
Michelle Daley, a Director of Sisters of Frida, said â
âThe rights of disabled women and girls have not been systematically mainstreamed in the UK. The UN is obviously recognising this.
The proper collection of disaggregated data has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.
We welcome the Committeeâs recommendation that the State allocates resources to support representative organisations for disabled women and girls and secure our strategic involvement and contributions in legislation. Perhaps this would, in future, avoid abhorrent situations like the âbest interestsâ defence for carers committing coercive and controlling abuse which the Government introduced without consulting us.â
Notes to editors:
- Â Â Â The Concluding Observations are published on the Committeeâs webpage (UK section) :Â http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_
layouts/treatybodyexternal/ SessionDetails1.aspx? SessionID=1158&Lang=en
- Â Â Â DDPOs across the UK have worked in coproduction to collect evidence and compile the reports through the Review process. The delegation of DDPOs present in Geneva w/c 21st August 2017 included Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance, British Deaf Association, People First Scotland, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Inclusion London, Disabled People Against Cuts, Equal Lives, Black Triangle, Sisters of Frida, Black Mental Health UK.
- Â Â Â Contributions were also received from Innovations in Dementia, HFT and Intersex NGO Coalition.
- Â Â Â On 23rd and 24th August the examination of the UK Government took place in Geneva, with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People. The report of the dialogue can be found here, with links to submission documents: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21993&LangID=E
- Â Â Â The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation of disabled peopleâs rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. The findings expressed concern of grave and systematic violations of disabled peopleâs human rights. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People â with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The Review looked at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.
Inquiry report, 2016: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/InquiryProcedure.aspx
- Â Â Â A lay personâs guide to the Review process and Examination can be found here: www.disabilitywales.org/crpd17
- Â Â Â Statistics about disabled women: http://www.sisofrida.org/resources/disabled-women-facts-and-stats/
- Â Â Â Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. It is a defence for accused abusers to show that they believe their behaviour was in the victimâs best interests and reasonable.
Posted on Monday, August 21st, 2017
I proudly joined other Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations today at the UN in Geneva for the formal review of the Government’s implementation of the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities.
After months of collaboration with the other DPOs (including the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance of which we’re a member) we delivered our presentation today. Painfully we had to prioritise only a cluster of issues. I spoke on Art 13 (Access to Justice) and managed to raise our concerns about the defence to coercive abuse offences.
In the brief Q&A, pleasingly two members asked questions about disabled women and girls: 1) what cases are there of women having their children removed from them by social services and 2) tell us about Sarah Reed case.
We will be writing to these members with full responses.
I managed to observe some of Latvia’s session later in the day to see how our UK inquiry might look later this week. It was good to see more questions asked about disabled women and girls and, a robust and direct question requiring a response, from the Chairperson herself.
At this point there was a 15 minute break and I was fortunate enough to meet the Chairperson, Professor Theresia Degener for a coffee. She is the only woman on the Committee.
We discussed s76 Serious Crime Act and she confirmed she could see why we are concerned that the defence for carers to controlling abuse disproportionately puts disabled women and people with learning disabilities at risk. Lawyer to lawyer we looked at the subjective nature of this provision – i.e. It is sufficient for the perpetrator to believe the abuse was in the victim’s “best interests”, not an objective view.
We also discussed access to medical care (including reproductive and sexual health services) and the impact of welfare reform on disabled women.
Professor Degener was keen to take my papers with her, so fingers crossed, the issues are raised in the review.
– Sarah Rennie, Steering Group
Posted on Monday, August 21st, 2017
Sisters of Frida joins Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs Organisations (DDPOs) from across the UK in Geneva this week to present evidence of violations on disabled peopleâs rights to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD)
In a closed session on Monday 21st August, DDPOs will highlight the UK Governmentâs failure to respond to many of the questions put to it by the Committee throughout this process. They will tell the Committee of the systemic failure to support disabled people to live independently and to have access to social, educational, and employment opportunities.
This is the first time the UN Disability Committee is reviewing the UKâs progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since the UK government ratified the Convention in 2009. DDPOs will tell the Committee that the government has ignored many of the questions put to it earlier this year as part of the review process. The Committee will consider the governmentâs response to its questions and the DDPOsâ observations before questioning representatives from the UK and devolved governments in Geneva later this week (23 and 24 August).
Eleanor Lisney, Director of Sisters of Frida says,
âWe have been calling out on the failure of the UK Government to fulfil obligations to disabled women since 2013 when we joined the UK CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Workgroup and delegation in 2013 going to Geneva). We did the same when we went to UN in New York city for CSW (UN Commission on the Status of Women) the UKNGOCSW delegation and held a side event. It is vital that disabled women are represented in processes like CRPD reporting as too often our experience as disabled women is invisible.This is an opportunity to change this and show how the cuts and legal changes are affecting us.â
Sarah Rennie, who will be representing Sisters of Frida in Geneva says,
âThe UK Governmentâs response does not address how gender-specific policies incorporate the social model of disability to break down barriers, meet the needs of Disabled women, or require an intersectional approach. We urge the Government to immediately remove the âbest interestsâ defence in the Serious Crime Act 2015 which restricts Disabled women from seeing their perpetrators of emotional abuse brought to justice, and to improve access to medical care for Disabled women including pre-natal and reproductive health services.â
The DDPOs’ submission was co-produced by Reclaiming our Futures Alliance (including Sisters of Frida ), Inclusion Scotland, People First Scotland, DRUK, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, British Deaf Association, and Black Triangle.
Notes to editors:
1) The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities investigation is assessing what steps the UK has taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The committee is a body of experts, nominated and elected by governments. The majority of committee members are disabled people.
2) The committee postponed its scheduled assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to hold a special inquiry into complaints by DPPOs that the governmentâs welfare reform policies had violated disabled peopleâs rights. The current assessment looks at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, employment policies and education.
3) Before examining UK and devolved government representatives on Wednesday and Thursday the committee will meet with representatives of DDPOs to discuss their views on the formal written response already tabled by the UK government. The DDPOs have prepared their own submission as highlighted above.
4) Previous UN shadow reports from Sisters of Frida can be found at http://www.sisofrida.org/resources/
5) ROFA is an alliance of Disabled People and their organisations in England including Inclusion London, Equal Lives, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Sisters of Frida, National People First and Disabled People Against Cuts. For more information see: www.rofa.org.uk
6) more information about Sisters of Frida to be found at http://www.sisofrida.org
7) information on the status of disabled women in the Serious Crime Art 2015 can be found at http://www.sisofrida.org/resources/violence-against-women/
Press queries to
Eleanor Lisney, Director, mobile 07737480378
Posted on Saturday, August 19th, 2017
We’re looking for passionate and enthusiastic disabled women to join our steering group. The steering group is comprised of disabled women with different experiences, knowledge and skills who together lead Sisters of Frida. You will be in an influential position to amplify the voices of disabled women.
If you’re a young disabled woman with limited work or activism experience we want to hear from you too!
We have monthly skype calls and try to meet every 3 months. For more information, click here.
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 seeÂ people of colour, people of ethnic minorities and immigrants,Â many of whom are also disabled-Â being systematically abused andÂ oppressedÂ in our countryÂ by our own government, and itsÂ associatedÂ 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.
Recovery In The Bin.
If you want to add your (organisation) signature, please email email@example.com
Posted on Monday, August 7th, 2017
Following our successful projects âDisabled womenâs voices from the frontlineâ and âDisability and Sexualityâ, 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 â 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 youâre 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: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07876 742600
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 anÂ Accessibility Guide to Meetings and Events â 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)
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.