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At the European Parliament: Domestic violence against people with disability

 

2 semi circles of seated people facing each other with one woman in a bed chair lying down and man with hat at this end and interpreters signing in space between the semi circles

Photo of meeting from European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup. http://www.ardi-ep.eu 

Sisters of Frida was asked to speak at an event hosted by Soraya Post MEP on Domestic violence against disabled people by the European Network of Independent Living (ENIL) on the 31st January 2017. Here is the speech from Eleanor Lisney ( a summarised version was given as the meeting ran out of time)

Having support for independent living is one of the fundamental needs of disabled people and the structural barriers of being able to exercise our rights is in our battles with social services, schools, higher education, housing, stigmas and discrimination and ableism.
four women around a table, 2 wheelchair users, one with Middle Eastern, one with East Asian looks, the other Caucasian with one in a bed chair lying down position.

with Nadia (ENIL), Eleanor (SOF), Freyja and Embla (Tabú)

It seems right that we should meet with ENIL member before the event  – Nadia Haddad and Tabú ‘s Embla Ágústsdóttir and Freyja Haraldsdóttir for drinks to talk before the event.

Embla and Freyja were giving their testimonies on behalf of  the next day on domestic violence against disabled people. Here is their speech for Tabú.

It is clear that a new definition of domestic violence in itself will not solve the social situation of disabled women and end domestic violence against us. That does not change the fact that by redefining domestic violence legally and in policy can change, for the better, the practices of the police, legal system, social services and violence support networks. Changing the definition does not have to shadow the gender-based approach, it should enrich it. This should not have to exclude tackling of other forms of violence, e.g. institutional violence and hate crime. More so it could draw upon the multiple and concurrent forms of violence that should be beneficial to disabled women and service systems. It could deepen the understanding of which kind of violence affects or actuate other kinds of violence as well as offering a better ground to analyse how structures and cultures encourage and minimize abuse in the lives of disabled women.”

 

We also met up with all four of the Disabled Survivors Unite co-founders from the UK – Alice Kirkby, Ashley Stephens, Holly Scott-Gardner and  Bekki Smiddy. Here is their blog of the day with a audio recording and transcript. There was much appreciation of their testimonies.

John Pring of Disability News Service wrote the article  ‘Cuts mean government ‘is complicit in high levels of domestic violence’ on their appearance.

Ana Peláez, the Chair of the European Disability Forum (EDF) Women’s Committee and a member of its Executive Committee spoke on the structual problems faced by disabled women and girls

So the first thing we need to say is that violence against women and girls with disabilities is structural violence that arises from the mere fact that when we talk about their specific situation they are not recognised as women or girls. This non-recognition means they are excluded from policies aimed at providing assistance and recovery for women victims of violence. (Another related topic is the accessibility of these services, but today we don’t have time to go into this.)

A second structural aspect of violence against women and girls with disabilities is that in many cases they are victims of legal incapacitation which takes place due to their gender. This incapacitation is part of the process to enable these women to be subjected to forced sterilisation without their consent, or without their realising what is being done to them. This practise is another type of domestic violence in some ways, because it is the families who, in violation of the CRPD and even article 39 of the Istanbul Convention, choose to sterilise their daughters to protect them against unwanted pregnancies. I don’t mean to blame the families; they are also victims of the healthcare system, which very often suggests this type of practise. Sterilising a woman means mutilating not only her reproductive capacity, but also her civil, political and economic rights. In addition, the only thing sterilisation achieves is to leave girls and women with disabilities even more exposed to sexual abuse and rape. Even worse, they are also unable to access justice to report the perpetrators or seek remedies, because they have been deprived of their legal capacity.

Here is the Ana Peláez EP  (Word doc) speech in full that she kindly send us.

 

It was wonderful to meet Madelen Löw from We Rise Again (Sweden) who spoke her powerful testimony

two women, one speaking, the other woman is listening

Madelen Löw with Judith Ward UK MEP

People who were involved with the event spoke of their willingness to have further collaboration on the topic – we hope so! We will continue to follow the discussions. There was much mention of the Istanbul Convention that we hope will be ratified soon by the UK.

More photos from the event at Flickr account

At the European Parliament Panel: Structural problems faced by disabled people, when accessing their full rights

Hearing hosted by MEP Soraya Post S&D : Domestic violence against people with disability

woman with blonde hair and black rimmed glasses. She has a notice that says Feminism in Europe

Soraya Post MEP

MEP Soraya Post invited the civil society, NGO’s and Members of the Parliament to a hearing regarding domestic violence against people with disabilities, in order to raise awareness and put the issue on the political agenda

For the panel on Structural problems faced by people with disabilities, when accessing their full rights, Eleanor Lisney spoke for Sisters of Frida and ENIL (European Network of Independent Living)

(a summarised version was given due to meeting running out of time )

Thank you very much to Soraya Post MEP – for this opportunity to speak.

Sisters of Frida is an experimental collective of disabled women. We want a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.

We are seeking to build a/or different networks of disabled women.
We would like a sisterhood, a circle of disabled women and allies to discuss, share our experiences and explore possibilities. So at this moment we remain strictly a female group – female includes anybody who self identify as female.

  • – unfunded, we focus on issues specifically to do with disabled women –there is a gap in Women’s organisations and disabled people’s organisations
  • – advocate disabled women’s rights – we went to UN CEDAW examination with other UK women NGOs to Geneva and the UN CSW (Commission on Status of Women)
  • – we re part of ROFA – Reclaiming our Future Alliance for CRPD shadow report
  • – we have spoken on events on social justice, on intersectionality and on domestic violence
  • – we spoke for disabled women at the Global Summit to end sexual violence in conflict

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is a Europe-wide network of disabled people,  Independent Living organisations and their non-disabled allies on the issues of Independent Living. ENIL represents the disability movement for human rights and social inclusion based on solidarity, peer support, deinstitutionalisation, democracy, self-representation, cross disability and self-determination

Speaking on structural problems when accessing full rights for disabled people, I would like to emphasise the importance of access –

  • Access to education – this includes sex education where disabled people are often excluded, and education is a key to being able to access rights, being aware of rights need you to be literate which leads on to
  • Access to information – including web accessibility, for knowing what’s happening and how, where, when to go to for help and make your voice known in consultations
  • Access to the built environment – physical access and independent living so that you are not trapped in your home or a residential place, having the right assistive equipment and care ( personal assistance.)
  • Access to justice – you can have the most wonderful legislation enshrining your rights but if you cannot get to them because you do not have the socio economic means, they would might as well not be there – legal aid is essential

Societal attitudes is also an impediment ie. Stigmas and societal discrimination (social model of disability)

Rashida Manjoo : UN special rapporteur on sexual violence said

  • “Violence against women needs to be addressed within the broader struggles against inequality and gender-based discrimination.” Rape and domestic violence do not occur in a vacuum, but within a culture shaped and influenced by issues such as normalised harassment in public spaces and the dehumanising objectification of women in the media.

Where disabled women are concerned, there is such a low expectancy to have relationships of any kind that they internalized a low esteem, supposing that they are ‘lucky’ to be in a relationship even if it is an abusive relationship and there is a real fear of care support being withdrawn.  Disabled women see violence and abuse as “part of life” : there are high levels of violence, with very low rates of reporting. Violence and abuse happen behind closed doors: at home, in day centres, in residential homes, in supported accommodation, in special hospitals and on mental health ward. Few disabled women access mainstream support services. There is also poor access to justice and often no response

A 2014 study found that only around 15% of rapes recorded by police as crimes resulted in rape charges being brought against a suspect. The research shows that more than 80% of people reporting rape to the Metropolitan Police are vulnerable to sexual attack (women with psychosocial disabilities and women with learning disabilities) but that these same vulnerabilities mean their cases are less likely to be result in a suspect being charged.

(see https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/02/28/revealed-why-the-police-are-failing-most-rape-victims/)

Professor Stanko’s (Professor Betsy Stanko 2014) research into how the Police deal with rape victims showed that women with mental health issues are 40 per cent less likely to have their case referred to the police for prosecution than women without mental health issues. Women with learning difficulties were 67 per cent less likely to have their case referred.

“These women face almost unsurmountable obstacles to justice, their rape is highly unlikely to carry a sanction, and in that sense, it is decriminalised.”

“Victim vulnerabilities effectively protect suspects from being perceived as credible rapists”.

Lastly, there is also the intersectional ( such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and immigration status) ) aspect of structural barriers – access is about more than just ramps – my needs may be about faith or culture, or about how you explain things to me, or getting the right interpreter who uses sign language that I can understand. My barriers may be compounded if I am a Indian lesbian deaf wheelchair user for example.

Sisters of Frida works with StaySafe East in London who has years of experience working with disabled survivors. I suggest asking them for advice on best practice on helping disabled people caught in domestic violence.

Having support for independent living is one of the fundamental needs of disabled people and the structural barriers of being able to exercise our rights is in our battles with social services, schools, higher education, housing, stigmas and discrimination and ableism.

 

Thank you.

Eleanor Lisney

Group photo of participants after the event/hearing.

Group photo of some of the participants after the event/hearing, Embla, Freyja, Madelen, and Eleanor in the front row. Aaron Isrealson, one of the organisers is in the back row.

 

 

 

 

 

Cold, chaotic and claustrophobic at times – but we were there at the Women’s March last Saturday!

Group of women, 2 wheelchair users holding a banner with words 'Sisters of Frida Disabled Women's Collective, four other women standing behind

Arriving near Trafalgar Square at the end of the march

 

We sent out this press release on the day of the march

“Sisters of Frida are joining the Women’s March in solidarity with all those marginalised and threatened by the politics of hatred and division. Amongst the many statements that triggered women to march was the mocking of Serge Kovaleski, Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the New York Times, who is disabled.

“Whilst the march was not accessible for all disabled women, Sisters of Frida have been working with the Women’s Equality Party to ensure that disabled women are represented and access improved. Both the Women’s Equality Party and Sisters of Frida will be live streaming and tweeting from the Women’s March on London to open up this space to those unable to join us today.

“This is a powerful example of how a movement can amplify the voices of those who are often most marginalised. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience abuse compared to non-disabled women, and we are still fighting for the right to independent living. Disability hate crime is underreported and can go unrecognised.

“Disabled women too often face barriers to fully participating in politics. Today we are demanding that space. We know that disability can intersect with other marginalised identities – including race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. Today we march for a politics that includes all women. Tomorrow we will continue our work to amplify the voices of those women who are too often unheard.”

We had all intentions of meeting up and marching together with the Womens Equality Party but some of us were not well enough given the cold weather, impairment issues and sheer numbers of the people who turned up. It was very difficult to get together even if we manage to get in contact with our mobile phones. Negotiating through the crowds proved very difficult for many even those without a mobility impairment.

Reports of as many as 100 000 women were said to be there at the march and there was a feeling of being united together. There were some questions on the lack of intersectionality on the march and we were disappointed about the absence of the  disabled women voices.

We thank the Women’s Equality Party for their support.

 

Caucasian woman speaking to a East asian woman wheelchair user with many women carrying placards behind them

With Halla Gunnarsdóttir and the Womens Equality Party marchers

We were also joined by Liz Carr and Jo Church on the March. A few people send us messages of solidarity to say they could not come but to thank for representing them as disabled people/women.

More photos can be found at the Sisters of Frida’s Flickr account.

Joining the Women’s March London Saturday 21st January

Sisters of Frida are happy to march with the  Women Equality Party on Saturday. they are supporting us including helping with access needs so that we are able to march together.

They will have volunteers ready to support people with access needs on the day. If you need to contact us here is the mobile number you can contact 07453528706 – it might be better to text.

you can also contact us through twitter @sisofrida

see the access information provided by the organisers

And from the WEP

Getting there and getting away

  • Roads will be closed from noon to 17:00, so we suggest that you plan for delays if you are expecting to rely on buses or taxis
  • If you are traveling by tube please be advised that Green Park is the only nearby station that is fully accessible.  If buses are off this may mean you need to make your own way to Green Park tube station, which is slightly under a mile from Trafalgar Square
  • Please note that the Jubilee line will be closed on the day.

Buses (likely to be disrupted between 12noon and 5pm)

  • To reach Grosvenor Square (stops along Oxford Street near Bond Street Station): 6,7,10,13,23,73,94,98,137,139,159,189,390
  • To reach Park Lane: 2,10,16,36,73,74,82,137,148,414,436
  • To reach Green Park (stops along Piccadilly): C2,9,14,19,22,38

At the start

WE volunteers will be located at both drop-off points and can help guide you to the starting points, and we will also have a volunteer who can accompany you on the shorter march route if you wish

If you think you might need support, please make yourself known to a WE volunteer before the start.  We will be wearing a WE logo card on a lanyard so that you can identify us

During the march

Our volunteers on hand to help if you need any support and people at the back of our block looking out for anyone who needs some help

If you would like someone to buddy you on the march, just let us know.

(But check TFL travel alerts ,TFL, and TFL bus alerts )

And if you’re unable to march on Saturday? 

Join the livestreaming on the day  provided by Obi. WEP will also be livestreaming. Check their twitter feed too @WEP_UK

Changing Places toilets 

Not sure you can get into the Houses of Parliament on a Saturday to use the toilet.

Marchers taking the shorter route from Pall Mall

There is a shorter route joining the march from Pall Mall, and you are welcome to join the WE/Sisters of Frida block from this point. There will be a WE/Sisters of Frida point person at Pall Mall with a banner. The organisers have let us know that there are drop off points for people joining the march on Pall Mall from the north, at the bottom of Regent Street; from the south, Waterloo Place. There will be access stewards with green placards here. It is recommended that you arrive by 1.20pm to join the procession.

We hope you will join us – bring your family, childen, pets,  friends, PAs, support workers. We might not be many but we will be seen. But please self care is important, we totally understand if you cannot join the march.

Send us your photo – a very short message and we will tweet it during the march! on twitter or to hello@sisofrida.org

 

 

 

A Big thank you to Queer Cafe!

Queer cafe, make new special friends, build community, chalked blackboard on the pavement outside a house in the evening.

Folks at Queer cafe were kind enough to invite Sisters of Frida to give a talk  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

Visit from Deputy Minister, the Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube

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.

Four women and a man sitting around a table, two women wheelchair users, one with scooter. Shes holding a mobile

Sisters of Frida, Sophie and Eleanor, and Michelle Daley  joining on mobile phone, with the Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube and her colleagues

 

6 women, 1 man in group photo, 2 women in wheelchairs and one in a scooter.

At the Greenwich Association of Disabled People (GAD)

 

Eleanor Lisney: Disability and Sexuality workshops

Last night one of my new colleagues expressed surprise on  mention of my children – 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 –as a caregiver, as a sex object, mother, housekeeper – 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 – 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.

workshops

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

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

 

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

this project was funded by

logos of RSA and New Unity

 

 

 

— ——

Eleanor Lisney

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.

 

Videos from Disabled women’s voices in the Frontline

Here are the videos from the day Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am – 4.30pm 

Introduction by Annabel Crowley

Simone Aspis

Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper

transcript

 

Kirsten Hearn

transcript

Miss Jacqui

transcript coming soon

Pauline Latchem

transcript

Guests speakers – Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska

transcript

notes from discussion

Many thanks to for funding this event

rosa fund logo

Presentation from Svetlana Kotova: Women with Disabilities CRPD Article 6

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

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