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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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisofrida/

See our last AGM with the new Steering Group.

Presentation from Svetlana Kotova: Women with Disabilities CRPD Article 6

Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016


svetlana with other women

Svetlana Kotova with others from the event

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 “Implementation of the UN Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons – a common cause” . This is co-funded from the EU’s 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. That’s 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
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 children’s 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 isn’t 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
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.

CRPD
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 women’s 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 – 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.

Obligations

In short state’s 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 –ensure 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 – 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. That’s 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 it’s 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 don’t even know that what we endure is not normal. We don’t 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 can’t 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.
Socio-economic situation
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.

 

svetlanaSvetlana Kotova is one of the founding members of Sisters of Frida. She has conducted training on the CRPD with Disability Lib and is the Policy and Campaigns Advisor at Sense. She is also the proud mother of a toddler daughter.

 

 

 

Photos from the Disabled Women’s Voices

Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016


Photos from the Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline event taken by Wasi Daniju are now available for viewing. See the full set at her Flickr album.

Here are some of them. Videos coming soon.

 

 

Simone Aspis with outstretched arms

Simone Aspis

 

Kirsten Hearn

Kirsten Hearn

 

Michelle Daley with Jagoda and Jusmina Risteska 3 wheelchair users

Michelle Daley with Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska

 

 

Annabel Crowley

Annabel Crowley

 

 

Becky Olaniyi and Miss jacqui

Becky Olaniyi and Miss Jacqui

 

Black and white photo of 4 women

Q&A Panel on Brexit and other questions

 

Eleanor Lisney

Eleanor Lisney

 

Sophie partridge and Penny Pepper, both wheelchair users reading their poetry

Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper

 

participants - forefront 2 older women, one white and one Asian, smiling at each other

some of the participants

Pauline Latchem signing

Pauline Latchem

Many thanks to Rosa UK for enabling this event

rosa fund logo

#disabledwomenvoice and a statement on post Brexit

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 – BREXIT, Racism and Xenophobia  to discuss the impact of the referendum vote on BAME communities across the UK organised by The Monitoring Group – 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 all 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,  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 those 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!

 

Participants listening to Simone

Participants listening to Simone

 

Some of the photos from today’s event  – more photos and video to come later.

Women representatives on the new CRPD Committee – where are they?

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2016


posted to Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP (UK), UN Enable, UN Women, International Disability Alliance,

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

23 rd June 2016

Dear Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP (UK) and other concerned parties,

We write as the only collective of women with disabilities in the UK to express our serious disappointment that the new composition of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is specifically a convention on and for disabled people, will have only one woman representative.

We are joined by our deep disappointment and concern by the International Network of Women with Disabilities (INWWD), European Network of Independent Living (ENIL), Women with Disabilities India Network, Pukenga Consultancy (NZ), Advocacy for Inclusion (Australia) and Women Enabled International in this letter.

Indeed, the CRPD Committee now stands as the treaty body with the fewest number of women members – one woman (out of 18 members) in 2017– a significant departure from its previous compositions of six women (out of 18 members) in 2014-2016; seven women (out of 18 members) in 2012-2014; eight women (out of eighteen members) in 2010-2012; and five women (out of 12 members) in 2008-2010.

Yet, article 34(4) of the CRPD sets out the requirement that States Parties elect members of the Committee with consideration being given to: equitable geographical distribution, representation of different legal systems, balanced gender representation and participation of experts with disabilities. This requirement for gender parity has clearly not been met. This failure to adhere to its own Convention seriously undermines the credibility of the new Committee.

In March, members of Sisters of Frida, the INWWD, and Women Enabled International participated at the UN CSW 60 at which themes under discussion and review included the empowerment of women and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. There was a marked paucity of events covering disabled women although several side-events were held by and with disabled women expressing the issues forcibly and clearly.

Disabled women are among the most disadvantaged in the world, despite being the single largest minority of women, and this failure to attend to the issues facing disabled women cannot help in the fight against barriers imposed not just by the built environment and lack of accessibility to services, employment and education but also by social barriers: stigmatization, ostracization and the easy targeting of those who are particularly susceptible to discrimination, including the fact we are female. How will these concerns be heard and represented? The CRPD recognizes the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by women and girls in Article 6; we need women representatives in the committee in order to ensure the Committee engages and addresses this issue.

What will you do to redress this lack of gender equality so that it will not be the case for the next election? What is the work to be done to ensure the inclusion of women across all the conventions, and agreements to which the UK Government is party? This absence of women in decision-making is likely to lead to leaving many behind in the face of the cry underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5, that no-one should be left  behind.

How can we be of assistance?

We look forward to your reply,

Eleanor Lisney

Sisters of Frida

Other signatories include

Myra Kovary (Moderator, International Network of Women with Disabilities)

Jamie Bolling (CEO, European Network on Independent Living)

Prof. (Dr) Asha Hans (Women with Disabilities India Network)

Dr Huhanna Hickey (Pukenga Consultancy, NZ)

Christina Ryan (CEO, Advocacy for Inclusion, Australia)

Stephanie Ortoleva Esq (Founding President & Legal Director, Women Enabled International)

sisters of frida logo

advocacy inclusion logo

 

 

INWWD logo

 

 

 

 

enil logoWomen Enabled International

enil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disability & Sex/uality workshops

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2016


Disability & Sex/uality project         

Invitation

We are delighted to announce that we are now able to continue the Disability and Sex/uality project that we started in September 2015. This phase of the project will consist of four workshops, each with a different theme. These workshops are for self-identified disabled women who want to create a space to talk about disability, sex and sexuality. It would be ideal if you can attend all the workshops, but if you prefer, you can just come to the ones you want. We would love to see you there!

Please RSVP now for the Disability and Sex/uality meeting on 30 July 2016, 12-4pm, London. (sof.disabilitysexuality@gmail.com)

 

The project

The idea for this project came out of a screening of the documentary AccSex, which showed how a group of disabled women in India experience their sexuality. We at Sisters of Frida, a disabled women’s cooperative, felt the need to create a space where we can safely discuss our sexuality in a supportive and empowering environment.

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.

 

Themes and dates of the workshops

Workshop 1: Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way

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

Time: 12-4pm

 

Workshop 2: When It Doesn’t Feel Good and It Isn’t 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

Time: 12-4pm

 

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

Time: 11.30-3pm (note the different time!)

 

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

Time: 12-4pm

 

Registration

The topics we will discuss can be sensitive. For this reason, please contact us directly to register and discuss participation as this will be a closed meeting: sof.disabilitysexuality@gmail.com. Note that places are limited, please get in touch as soon as possible. Deadline for registration for the first workshop (30 July) is 15 July.

 

Accessibility and needs

The venue is large and wheelchair accessible. There is an accessible toilet, but without a hoist. There is a kitchen people can use for quiet-time. Please get in touch as soon as possible if you need BSL or if you have other access needs. If you have any concerns or queries about the nature of what might be discussed in the workshop and how it could relate to your experiences, please get in touch. Please note that this is a peer-support group, so we cannot offer professional support.

 

Other details

Where: New Unity Islington

Address: 277A Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 2TZ

Contact: sof.disabilitysexuality@gmail.com

Deadline for registration: 15 July 2016

Accessibility: please get in touch to discuss your needs as soon as possible

Funded and supported by

new unity logo

Event: Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am – 4.30pm

Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016


Flyer for Voices event

 

A Sisters of Frida Event

Please register at Eventbrite

­­­Venue: Blackfriars Settlement

1 Rushworth Street London, SE1 0RB

Date:               Saturday 9 July 2016

Time:              11.00am to 4.30pm

Lunch provided! BSL interpreters provided but please let us know your Access and dietary requirements by 20th June, please!

Disabled women spoke of the barriers in participating in events where organisers seem to think inclusion means that we get access to the event/ if we get access to the event. We need to increase skills, provide capacity so that disabled women will be credible to challenge intersectional inequality.

So come to hear disabled women who are great public speakers/performers

 

SPEAKERS

kirsten hearn KIRSTEN HEARN is a long time blind lesbian feminist activist. Snarling at the patriarchy and agitating for   inclusion since 1980,; she is founder member of Sisters Against Disablement; Women’s tape over; Feminist audio Books, and an active member of  a raft of other disability, women’s and LGBT rights campaigns.

She seeks to cast all she does in a feminist light, believing that women’s struggle speaks to the experiences of all other marginalised groups.  Liberation for one group must not come at the sacrifice of another discriminated against group’s rights,. As best she can, she has applied these principles through singing, songs, writing and performance.

She has been a board member of Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police Authority; EHRC Disability Committee; the chair of Inclusion London and the vice chair of the Consortium of LGBT CVOs. Currently she bends her energies for change as a Haringey Labour Councillor; An Independent Member of the Parole Board; and as a member of the board of Stay Safe East, a pioneering disabled people’s organisation dedicated to campaigning against DV and hate crimes experienced by disabled people. She also speaks a lot.

simone aspisSIMONE ASPIS is a disabled woman with over 20 years experience of successful campaigning for disabled peoples’ rights.   Her first taste of campaigning was leading People First’s campaign to secure civil rights and direct payments for people with learning difficulties in the Disability Discrimination and Direct Payments legislation.   Thereafter she has taken up campaigns roles with Disabled Peoples Direct Action NetworkI Decide Coalition, Disabled Peoples Equal Rights To Life, United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council and Alliance for Inclusive Education working on many issues covering inclusive education, independent living and supported decision making, welfare reform and bioethics. She is a former Green Party’s Disabled Peoples Spokesperson and have stood as Parliamentary Perspective Candidate and Greater London  Authority’s elections

Becky Olaniyi

BECKY OLANIYI is  interested in acting, writing, psychology and neuroscience, but her main goal in doing this is to try to help young disabled women acknowledge and understand themselves as individuals, rather than simply being ‘that disabled girl’, as well as helping people in general to understand that disabled people are whole individuals whose limitations exist on a spectrum and are very different from one another because despite sharing one characteristic, we are all unique, with our own lives, perspectives and experiences.

 

PERFORMERS

miss jacquiMISS JACQUI came from a extremely creative family; She is fascinated by many different types of artforms. Theatre and music has always been a huge part of Miss Jacqui’s life.
Miss Jacqui’s love for theatre started a little later than most, and it was only when her mother signed Jacqui up to an inclusive drama group when she was 13 to get her out of her introverted shell; and she never looked back. Miss Jacqui’s love for music developed from recording the radio onto cassettes when she was really young, to wanting to know everything about how it all worked.
Miss Jacqui’s love for Spoken Word/Poetry only came to light in October 2011, when she joined ‘Poets Platform’ led by Kat Francois.Miss Jacqui honestly believe that creativity is a universal language.
Miss Jacqui is a Spoken Word Artist, Mix Engineer, Facilitator, and An Artist Manager.

sophieSOPHIE PARTRIDGE is a creative practitioner living in London, who trained with Graeae Theatre Co. She has worked extensively since her training, including her performance as Coral in the award winning Graeae play Peeling. Other stage performance includes work with the David Glass Ensemble, TIE in Nottingham, Theatre Resource in Essex and Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh. Her Media work also includes photo modelling, corporate video and radio.  She is also a campaigner for the right of all Disabled People to live truly independently!

and –

 

Penny PepperPENNY PEPPER wrote the taboo-breaking book Desires Reborn in 2012 and in 2013 she won a Creative Futures Literary Award. In September 2014 her one-woman spoken word show, Lost in Spaces, premiered to strong reviews at Soho Theatre, and toured the Midlands in 2015. Recently she launched the Quality Writing for All Campaign for The Literary Consultancy at The Free Word Centre to great reviews. As a performance poet, she has performed across the UK,including London, Edinburgh and further afield in New York.

 

AnnabelANNABEL CROWLEY will chair the day. Annabel grew up as a young carer, and started working in the field of disability at the age of 17. She has supported disabled students in FE and HE, and is currently employed by the Disability Service at University of the Arts London. Annabel has also worked in the charity sector, including several years coordinating a user-led, community-based social activities programme at Hammersmith and Fulham Mencap. With experience in designing and delivering training, advocacy work, project management and youth participation.

paulineGuest appearance!

PAULINE LATCHAM is a practicing Counsellor and relationship therapist. Pauline’s background is in community volunteering, particularly youth and mental health work, domestic violence and disability advocacy and activism. She was great speaking at the Wow Festival Chore Wars session as a Deaf woman for Sisters of Frida.

 

Funded by

rosa fund logo

Rosa May Billinghurst, disabled woman suffragette

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2016


Many thanks to Dr. Sheila Hanlon for permission to repost this blog.

Rosa May Billinghurst: Suffragette on Three Wheels

woman seated on tricycle surrounded by coppers

 

Rosa May Billinghurst (1873-1953) was born and raised in Lewisham, London. As a child, she contracted an illness which left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her condition did not, however, deter her from joining the WSPU in 1907 or becoming one of its best known militants.

In her youth, Billinghurst and her sister Alice volunteered to work with poor children in the Deptford slums, local workhouse inmates, and prostitutes. Exposure to these injustices may have contributed to her interest in women’s suffrage and inspired her to join the Women’s Liberal Association. When a branch of the WSPU opened in Lewisham, she quickly switched allegiances to this new group, whose political agenda was a better match to her own ideas than the the Liberal platform was.

Lewisham banner

Lewisham banner

Billinghurst was a dedicated WSPU member. She organised events and meetings, took part in demonstrations, was a regular in processions, and served as secretary of the Greenwich branch. Without the use of her legs, she relied on an invalid tricycle for the mobility she needed to be a full participant in the suffrage action. Her invalid tricycle was, for the time, a high tech wheelchair modeled on a tricycle and propelled by hand controls.

Billinghurst was a regular participant in the WSPU’s public processions. She attracted public attention by appearing dressed in white and wheeling along with her machine decked out in coloured WSPU ribbons and “Votes for Women” banners. Billinghurst rose to prominence as a recognizable public figure and became known as “the cripple suffragette.”

In addition to being a regular fixture at peaceful protests, Billinghurst was drawn to militant action and demonstrations. In 1910, she participated in Black Friday, leading the police to try to subdue her by knocking her out of her tricycle, pushing it down a side street, removing the valves from the tyres, and restraining her arms. Never easily deterred, she was back a few days later for the next protest, only this time she came prepared to use her tricycle as a battering ram to get through police lines.

The image above, taken by an unknown photographer in 1908, shows Billinghurst in a crowd surrounded by police. She may be under arrest or at a demonstration supporting fellow suffragettes who were incarcerated. She was arrested herself several times, including an incident in November 1911 when she was charged with obstructing police in Parliament Square. These charges were likely justified. Recalling her impressions of Billinghurst, one veteran of the suffrage movement wrote, “I remember hearing startling stories of her running battles with the police. Her crutches were lodged on each side of her self propelling invalid chair, and when a meeting was broken up or an arrest being made, she would charge the aggressors at a rate of knots that carried all before her.”

Billinghurst at a protest

Billinghurst at a protest

Billinghurst’ efforts earned her several prison terms. In March 1912, she took part in the WSPU window smashing campaign, for which she received one month’s hard labour. Doctor Alice Ker who was in jail at the time wrote to her daughters in April that year that “Miss Billinghurst, the tricycle lady, is going out on the 11th and will take this (letter). She is quite lame, wears irons on her legs and walks with crutches when she is out of her tricycle.”

Billinghurst received another eight month sentence for her role in the December 1912 attacks on pillar boxes. This time she took part in the hunger strikes. She was released early following brutal force feeding sessions that left her in poor health and with broken teeth. She wrote and protested force feeding once she was released, publishing graphic accounts of her experience in suffrage journals and inspired Keir Hardie and George Lansbury to raise the atrocities of force feeding in parliament.

In the years after the suffrage era, Billinghurst remained committed to the cause, joining the Suffragette Fellowship and supporting Christabel Pankhurst’s election campaign forThe Women’s Party in 1918.

Rosa May Billinghurst is an inspiring example of a suffragette who overcame disability to become an active participant in the battle for women’s emancipation. Her story reminds us that suffrage was a cause that mattered to women of all types, across class, race, ability, nationality and other divides.

 

Sources:

Image: “The Papers of Rosa May Billinghurst,” The Women’s Library, Ref 7RMB

“Billinghurst Letters” and “Alice Ker Letters,” The Women’s Library, Autograph Collection, Vol XXIX, 9/29, 1912-1913

Fran Abrams, Freedom’s Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes, (London: Profile Books, 2003)

Iris Dove, Yours in the Cause: Suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwhich and Woolwhich,1988.

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Dr Sheila hanlon with a penny farthing cycleDr. Sheila Hanlon is a social and cultural historian specialising in the politics and every day experience of women’s cycling. She holds a PhD from York University, Toronto and is a former Research Fellow at The Women’s Library.

Freyja Haraldsdóttir: 22 random things that make me tired as a disabled woman

Posted on Monday, May 30th, 2016


Many thanks to Freyja Haraldsdóttir for allowing us to reblog this post. We met her in Leeds at the Screening AccSex meeting at the Center for Disability Studies, Leed Iniversity. So many of us could respond to the feelings she expresses here – 

I am tired of often needing to value other people’s needs more than my own.

I am tired of being anxious about small events because of the fear of being marginalized and silenced.

I am tired of people over and over again assuming my opinions on sexism and ableism are just an emotional reaction instead of opinions based on diverse knowledge and deep experience of both.

I am tired of feeling like a bad feminist when I can’t show matters of privileged women support who don’t acknowledge or understand my reality.

I am tired of people finding it okay when Hollywood presents disabled people better of dead.

I am tired of everyone but myself having more authority to decide on my abilities and strength.

I tired of my body being objectified as desexualized, weak and emotionless.

I am tired of people I love excusing ableist people.

I am tired of needing to pick out a president candidate or other people for powerful positions who I don’t identify with and will therefore have big problems understanding my reality.

I am tired of ableism being normalized on a higher level in my country then sexism and racism (not that that isn’t normalized enough).

I am tired of people not understanding multiple oppression and that I can not pick out identities like clothes to wear everyday. I am always both a woman and disabled. Not either or.

I am tired of not being able to trust that my independence is longterm because in Iceland personal assistance is still a trial project. My freedom is on trial.

I am tired of being afraid of sharing what I find hard because then I automatically become victimized.

I am tired of sometimes not being able to sleep from worries about the influence of marginalization on my future.

I am tired of people constantly asking ‘how is it going?’ in stead of ‘how are you feeling?’.

I am tired of not being allowed to be angry because it makes others uncomfortable.

I am tired of not being allowed to show difficult emotions without being stigmatized as negative and unhappy when I am most definitely not.

I am tired of not having space to talk about physical pain without my life being stigmatized as not worth living.

I am tired of many people not caring about everything mentioned above.

I am tired of not being allowed to be tired.

I am tired of being tired of being tired.

I am so tired.

There is also this great speech she gave at 100 years of Women’s Civil Rights. International Conference Celebrating the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage in Iceland, October 22.-23. 2015. (speech transcript)

Sam Ambreen: We are, none of us, beyond hope

Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016


Thank you to Sam Ambreen for allowing us to repost her blog. The article referred to in xoJane has been removed and replaced with an apology.  You can read the original at webarchive. Sam is giving an important message here, especially for disabled women, with mental health issues and internalised lack of self worth.

crazy

I didn’t read the xojane article doing the rounds, I found myself reeling from the headline as I tried to process what the author, Amanda Lauren, was saying. “My former friend’s death was a blessing – some people are so sick, they are beyond help”.

It kind of speaks for itself, the author believes there are people who are a lost cause and they should die because it will make it easier for everyone else. She feels justified in saying this, reassured enough to publish her thoughts on a global platform. I am perturbed by people who make these controversial statements, unconcerned by how they might be perceived, either possessing the hide of a rhinoceros or else feel that public opinion will sway their way (another painful reminder of the growing inhumanity we’ve normalised against anyone considered ‘other’).

I have CPTSD, a condition I am stuck with for the rest of my life because it is as the name suggests, complex. I didn’t ask to be repeatedly put in harm’s way, with no chance of escape, it’s just the life I was born into. I have explored in great detail the reasons I broke down, so that I can understand it was not my fault (when you’re mental you’re convinced you deserve it) and so that I could hope for a better future, one where I can have a fulfilling life, where I won’t be immediately at risk of a violent death.

My efforts to at least appear normal for the sake of ordinary people exhaust me, as anyone who suffers from a condition which impacts on their day to day dealings will tell you; how to not only stay alive, but to live well, to be fun and interesting and relevant. There can be no stone left unturned, no door chained and bolted in the recesses of my fragile mind, triggers must be neutralised as they arise. I frequently say things that make other people uncomfortable. I don’t do it intentionally, it’s just my experience of the world is so far removed from the norm, I come across somewhat intense and affected. When people try to cover things up, or downplay the truth, I consider that to be gaslighting because it messes with my sense of reality. When I told the truth as a child I was disbelieved and punished.

My childhood was violent, my teens isolated, my 20s split entirely from reality. Amanda Lauren would probably say my life wasn’t worth living. I believed that too, until just a year or two ago, when I suddenly remembered who I was before I became unhinged, a state I found myself in through no fault of my own. I remembered the things I was good at, the hopes I had as a pre teen, for university and beyond. This brought with it confidence and self esteem, qualities I’d mislaid following my failings as an adult in a cishet white supremacist patriarchy. When I think back to the lowest period of my life, the monotony of anhedonia and how utterly convinced I was that my time on this earth was rapidly coming to an end it frightens me to think people like Amanda believe in the legitimacy of their own bigotry.

I never thought I’d have the confidence to write my own blog, or weather a twitter storm. I didn’t dare dream of friends and lovers who hear me, even when there are no words. Even when I was a bordering on psychotic, withdrawing from SSRIs, they kept me supplied with valium and kitten pics. That’s what friends do, Amanda, they love you despite your flaws. They understand there is nothing inherently wrong with you, that you’re a product of an unjust society and that to feel depressed or disconnected from the world is a sign you’re actually (most likely) a decent sort. I don’t reject the mental ones, I welcome them with open arms, as they have me. I want to offer Amanda’s ex friend my condolences and wish for her to rest in peace. I am sorry you were stuck with people who didn’t deserve you.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” Be wary of those who pretend they haven’t a care in the world, more so the ones who genuinely don’t.

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Sam Ambreen Sam Ambreen is a blogger at Left At the Rights.
She also tweets as @HamHambreen

Inclusion for all – BAMER disabled person’s perspective

Posted on Friday, May 20th, 2016


On 27 September 2012, Eleanor Lisney (and Michelle Daley) gave a presentation on BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee ) disabled person’s perspective at the ‘Re-thinking disability equality policy and practice in a hostile climate’ event. It  is still relevant so we are reposting it here – (first published by Inclusion London but removed since their new website redesign). 

 

This presentation was part of a series from Inclusion London ‘Re-thinking disability equality policy and practice in a hostile climate’ event

 

Stephens Rethinking Disability graphic with themes from the event

Rethinking Disability Policy and Practice in a Hostile Climate event held on 27th Sept 2012. Graphic by Stephen Hodgkins.

 

This is a presentation from Michelle Daley and myself.  Michelle is sorry she cannot be here today but we both would like to thank Inclusion London to give the BAMER disabled person’s perspective from the front line.

 In a group discussion once, we were asked what was the most important thing we’d grab in a fire or a flood and I said ‘my passport’.
Why? Because a passport defines who you are – it defines your rights. It identifies you as a citizen – and in this country, it defines whether you have rights. A refugee does not have the same rights as we do – a disabled refugee would have even less rights. In rethinking disability equality policy in a hostile climate – do we include refugees, the stateless  and migrants?

I was alerted to a tweet last year – about  Manjeet Kaur in Manchester, a woman wheelchair user seeking asylum. She was facing eviction from her accommodation and possible deportation from the UK. Her eviction was prevented by a picket outside her home and other efforts by her and RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research) in Salford,
who are campaigning together. We managed to get some disability activists to join the picket.

We have a series of questions we want you to consider –

how do we ensure that in rethinking disability equality that we include all voices – travellers, those in institutions including prisons, and those excluded groups?

How about those who are citizens but do not know they have rights as disabled people?

How do we make sure we include them? Its hard enough as a disabled person to negotiate barriers and discrimination when you are a native English speaker but for those who struggle with the language and are unfamiliar with the system and bureaucracy – how do make them aware that they have also a claim to disability equality?

 

On the frontline, where Local Authorities are cutting back, how do we ensure that BAME people are not left behind in the ‘personalisation’ process, in the maze of bewildering social welfare reforms? Resources are being cut savagely, do DPOs who are struggling for their own existence include advocacy for those for whom English is not their first language? what happens to the practice of equality for all in this hostile climate? are some disabled being abandoned because DPOs are struggling themselves with the dwindling resources in terms of staff, time, finance and energy?

The reality is that choices for disabled people are limited. Choice is an integral aspect of the principle of inclusion – it is about increasing people‟s freedom and opportunity to improve their life chances. However if we continue to have limited choices made available to us, our opportunities to achieve equality of opportunity will continue to be seriously limited. What this means is that our vision of a full inclusion is always being threatened.

 

There is a serious erosion (and the expectations) of our disability rights signed in the Convention of rights for disabled people (CRPD). When I was interviewed on radio about access for  disabled people, the  interviewer opened the discussion by asking how in times of austerity at the moment, can we afford to have disabled access, are we being realistic to ask for expensive adjustments? Our rights as citizens and as humans are seen to be expandable and that goes across board as disabled people in the ethnic minorities, women, older people, those in rural communities. As cuts slash benefits, and impact on services and wages of those who already earn a barely minimum wage (including their families) there is a scramble on what they can get to survive. Many disabled people in BAME communities depend heavily on their families  for their care needs and this recession means many of their family members are made redundant and the first people to be impacted are poor people in those communities – many of whom are  living in bad housing and maybe desperate conditions.

 

I didn’t come with shocking statistics to prove that life is harder in the BAME communities –  this is not that kind of a conference I feel. It’s more important for me to emphasise, as Michelle says, the different journeys of BAMER disabled. We are also impacted by what happens to our communities and our young people. In my local community forum, in the stop and search police procedure, I question the status of continuing discrimination against disabled BAME  because of the colour of their skin or their faith. Who advocates for them? When you get doubly discriminated who do you go to for help? What about BAME disabled women when it comes to violence against women refuges or in hospital environment when they have accessibility needs as well as dietary and other faith needs?

 

Equality Act 2010 covers some of those rights in the ‘protected characteristics’ but I do not think we know what happens when they intersect. It’s too new and I’m not a lawyer but I do know there are not that many case laws to draw upon.

 

This presentation comes from our dialogue, Michelle and I, with each other, we both care passionately about the disability movement but also as disabled people from those BAMER communities and we ask you not to have silos – As Michelle says : Positive and real change can only be achieved with the inclusion of everybody.

ROFA (Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance) was formed since this event. We urge everyone to join, have their voices included and come to the conference  on the 14th July.

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eleanorEleanor Lisney is a founder member and coordinator of Sisters of Frida. She has represented them in Geneva for CEDAW and in NYC for UNCSW. 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. She enjoys being on the EVA (Electronic Visualisation & the Arts) London organising committee.

 

 

michelleMichelle Daley has over ten years experience working in the field of disability. She has worked for a number of organisations at local, national and international levels to develop, promote and implement policies on equality and diversity. She is one of the founder members of Sisters of Frida. Her work has played a major role in promoting and influencing the inclusion of disabled people in the mainstream society.
Michelle was a former member of Equality 2025, the Independent Living Scrutiny Group and currently a trustee of Independent Living Alternative. She has passionately worked at the grass root level addressing issues such as access, education, independent living and cultural diversity.