Eleanor Lisney: Disability and Sexuality workshops
Last night one of my new colleagues expressed surprise on Â mention of my children â she said she had no idea I had children. She did not mean it to be malicious but the fact I have children prove surprising to most folks. I think, to be brutally honest, most people do not expect disabled people to be sexual beings let alone have offspring.
And for disabled women it is doubly problematic. Consider the stereotype of being a woman âas a caregiver, as a sex object, mother, housekeeper â you get the picture? Many of those roles are not seen to be within the capacity of disabled women. All the media, films of disability and sexuality are from the perspective of disabled men where they have their needs fulfilled by non-disabled women. Examples, Me Before You (even if he did not think it was enough to keep him living), The Sessions, there not many based on the needs of disabled women (excluding Children of a Lesser God).
There is not much space afforded to disabled women on sexuality and how to factor in disability in the search for companionship, romance, relationships and sex. The narratives are missing. I was made aware how much so when I joined the group of women who went to the first workshop (there are a series of four workshops) lead by Sisters of Frida steering group members, Lani Parker and Dyi Huijg, on Dis/ability and Sexuality. This workshop was titled Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way
As disabled women we have a wide range of experiences, positive and negative, around disability, sex and sexuality. Disabled women are sexy, sexual, passionate, loving, caring, desirable, hot, beautiful, strong and much more! Our experiences of sexuality are also affected by different kinds of oppressions such as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.
In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others
I felt we really shared our experiences as disabled women intersected by faith, culture, and sexual orientation. We examined the differences with impairments, acquired and from a young age, we spoke about chronic illnesses, the barriers and effects of medication and age. Does sex alleviate pain, do we/should we have sex when we are in pain? We compared the attitudes of social workers, medical practitioners and partners â in and out of relationships, domestic abuse from families, society and community pressures.
I cannot wait for the next session. I hope more people will come to visit this wonderful space where we afford each other sisterhood and non-judgemental sharing.
Themes and dates of the workshops
Workshop 1: Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way (finished)
In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others.
Date: Sat 30 July
Workshop 2: When It Doesnât Feel Good and It Isnât Right
In this workshop we will discuss negative experiences and difficulties we have around sex and sexuality, our boundaries, consent, privacy and ableism in relationships.
Date: Sat 27 Aug
Workshop 3: Disabled Desire: Sexy and Sensual Possibilities
In this workshop we will discuss positive experiences we have and want to have around sex and sexuality, pleasure, and what it means to desire and be desired.
Date: Sat 17 Sept
Workshop 4: Sex: Getting What You Want and Need
Here we will build on the other workshops, and discuss how to develop confidence and feel empowered to do and want sex differently, challenge internalised oppression and other obstacles, and talk about how to put our desires and needs into practice.
Date: Sat 22 Oct
this project was funded by
Eleanor Lisney is a founder member and coordinator of Sisters of Frida. She is an access advisor, an NUJ member on the New Media Industrial Council and the Equality Council. She is also on the British Council Disability Advisory Panel and the web team of the International Network of Women with Disabilities.
Videos from Disabled women’s voices in the Frontline
Introduction by Annabel Crowley
Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper
transcript coming soon
Guests speakers – Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska
notes from discussion
Presentation from Svetlana Kotova: Women with Disabilities CRPD Article 6
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 âImplementation of the UN Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons â a common causeâ . This is co-funded from the EUâs European Social Fund.
Below is her presentation.
Disabled women and CRPD
Disabled women are one of the most marginalised groups in the world.
According to UN they are
- 3 times less likely to be literate compared to disabled men
- Twice less likely to be in employment. When in jobs, they are much more likely to do low paid work
- Disabled women are much more likely to be victims of violence and often have to endure it for longer, because appropriate support is not there.
- 50% of disabled women have experienced domestic abuse compared with 25% of non-disabled women.
- Disabled women are twice as likely to be assaulted or raped as non-disabled women.
Both men and women with a limiting illness or disabilities are more likely to experience intimate partner violence.
- A study of women who access mental health services identified between 50% and 60% had experienced domestic violence, and up to 20% were currently being abused
- Disabled women are less likely to have access to health services, including family planning and contraception advice. Some are subjected to invasive procedures such as sterilisation or abortions without their consent.
- Disabled women are overrepresented among those parents whose children are being removed.
There are many reasons for this appalling situation disabled women face. Those reasons are complex. Disabled women were largely overlooked by feminist movement and although disability rights movement was largely gender neutral, it until recently failed to address the specific needs of disabled women. Thatâs why the CRPD is so important for disabled women.
Before moving to talk about the convention, I want to tell you a couple of stories of disabled women.
Aisha is deaf. She lives with her husband and their 2 children. Her husband works and she depends on him financially. He also is the only adult person who helps her to be in touch with the hearing world. She also relies on the help from her children, but sometimes it is just not appropriate to ask them to interpret. Whenever she has medical appointments or just needs to go to her childrenâs school or shops her husband or children have to interpret for her. From very beginning of their marriage he was abusive to her. He often hit her and sometimes raped her. She tried to talk to her parents about this, but they told her to be kind to him, as in their view it is worse to be alone, than to be with him. Friends told her to call the police next time he beats her, but she is afraid. She knows there isnât anywhere she can go to, she depends on him totally. Police are not likely to believe her and what will happen to her if he leaves?
Mary has learning difficulties. She lives in a home with other people with learning difficulties. Mary fell in love, had sex and became pregnant. She was told about sexuality or given advice about contraception she did not realise what was happening to her. Her parents wanted her to have an abortion, but could not achieve this, as Mary did not agree. While she was pregnant nobody told her what would happen at birth or spoken to her about looking after her child. Mary had a very traumatic experience at birth and after that her daughter was removed.
UN CRPD is an international instrument that protects both of those women and all other disabled women in the world.
The Convention recognises equality between women and men as one of its key principles. When it was developed, it has been decided to take a twin track approach, meaning that there is a specific article about disabled women along with specific mentions of gender in other articles. The convention seeks to address some of the specific areas where disabled women are most discriminated against.
Article 6, a specific article about disabled women recognises that they face multiple discrimination and requires states to take all appropriate measures to ensure disabled women can enjoy their human rights on the equal basis with others. Art. 6 is a cross cutting article. It therefore should be applied to all the rights in the convention.
Art 6 has 2 parts.
First it is about multiple discrimination disabled women face. Many of us have multiple identities and we are impacted by discrimination cumulatively as disabled women. Multiple discrimination is discrimination based on more than one status. Its effects can combine or grounds can interlink. Disabled womenâs situation is often influenced by the fact of both disability and gender. Other factors such as race and ethnicity or economic situation can also have a huge impact.
Multiple discrimination can happen in private and public sphere and the states have a duty to protect in both.
Discrimination disabled women face can take a form of direct discrimination, when disabled women are specifically excluded because of their gender and disability. Indirect discrimination â when policies seem neutral, but have disproportionate effect on disabled women. In the UK for example we argued that disabled women suffered the most from the recent austerity measures.
A denial of reasonable accommodation is also discriminatory. When disabled women for example cannot access breast cancer screening programmes because there is no equipment to accommodate their access needs it can be seen as a denial of reasonable adjustments.
It is important therefore to recognise that violence against disabled women, lack of access to health or maternity services, socio-economic situation of disabled women or lack of their participation and non-existence of their voices in political debate are all caused by multiple discrimination they face. It is also important to remember that disabled women are a very diverse group and there is a great inequality even within this group.
Do we hear the voices of women from ethnic minority backgrounds?
Do we hear the voices of women with learning difficulties?
Do we know the experiences of LGBT disabled women?
Development, advancement and empowerment
The second part of article 6 talks about the need to take all appropriate measures to secure development, advancement and empowerment of disabled women.
Development means giving women better chance in life by developing their skills and knowledge, improving education, economic situation, health, political participation etc. Advancement requires ensuring situation constantly improves.
Empowerment moves women from subjects of pity to right holders and decision makers. In order to be empowered women need to know about their rights and often need a chance to support each other and help each other have a voice. Empowerment is not only about taking part in political life, for many it is about standing up for themselves, being heard within their families, feeling confident and able to make choices. Empowerment is about feeling you are of an equal worth with others and you are making equal contribution in your own way.
In short stateâs obligations towards disabled women include the following:
Respect – not to take measures that undermine the development, advancement and empowerment of disabled women and girls. For example not to Introduce policies that may have a detrimental impact on disabled women or weaken protections disabled women already had.
Protect âensure private bodies do not infringe the rights
For example passing the laws that protect disabled women against violence.
Obligation to protect requires states to prevent, investigate, provide redress and protect the victims. In a context of violence, the states need to look at the positive measures they are taking to prevent it from happening. Are there effective ways for reporting it? Many of us need support to do this. Will those reports be investigated and will perpetrators be punished. Most importantly, will a disabled women who experienced violence get support to deal with it and move on. For many this support should include help to live independently in the community. Many of us are afraid to flee violent relationships, because we depend on the perpetrators not only financially, but also for support with our care needs.
Fulfil â To adopt measures needed to secure the development, advancement and empowerment. This requires specific resources and actions to advance the equality for disabled women.
It is really important to ensure there is enough information to assess the situation of disabled women. Thatâs why the collection of data is vital. The data that is collected about disabled people should be desegregated by gender. On the other hand, the data about women should include the data about disabled women specifically.
When CRPD was developed disabled people, including disabled women played a key part in the process. Nothing about us without us was truly acted upon. And CRPD recognises that disabled people, including disabled women should be involved in the process of implementation of the Convention and itâs monitoring.
It is important to remember that obligations in art 6 are immediately applicable, states cannot rely on progressive realisation.
Now I would like to focus on some specific areas of particular concern. Those are:
- Violence against disabled women and girls,
- Sexuality, reproductive rights and motherhood
- And socio-economic situation
As I said at the beginning we are more likely to be victims of violence. Disabled women are likely to endure it for longer and have very little opportunities to escape. Violence happens because of dependency generally, but dependency of disabled women can be much greater. Perpetrator is often our carer, and sometimes the only carer. We feel it is much harder for us to make it alone. Who would look after us if we lose our main carer? Many of us are afraid to lose children. The feeling of being trapped is very strong and can be caused by many factors which link together.
We are often targeted because of stereotypes, limited mobility, social isolation, economic dependency, difficulties with communication ect.
Our abusers can be family members, support workers, staff at institutions. We often are made to feel grateful for all the help they give us, so we feel powerless to stand up to them and complain. General public largely is sorry for them for the hard life they have looking after a disabled person, do they care about us? probably not. We are often not believed. How those who look after us could abuse us? And they can always find justifications. Many parents for example who want their daughters sterilised justify this as a way to protect them.
Many of us donât even know that what we endure is not normal. We donât always know where to go for help and what to say to get help. Some of us need communication support to ask for help, and often rely on perpetrators or other family members to provide it.
Those who do report violence and try to flee often find themselves in a situation where there is nowhere to go. Many of us have to choose either getting some support in an abusive relationship or not getting support for our disability at all.
Sexuality, reproductive rights and motherhood
When I was young, I was often told that people like me should not have children. It is often assumed that disabled women either cannot or should not be mothers. They should not have sex and should not know about it.
Many of us never get sex education. We do not always get family planning advice. Sometimes our families or professionals looking after us get advice on our behalf and make us undergo invasive treatments, such as abortions or sterilisations. We often canât access reproductive health services or screening programmes for females.
Those of us who have children are constantly afraid to do something wrong. We cannot ask for help because our children could be taken away.
On one hand we are discriminated and marginalised like all other women are, but on the other, we also have to battle the assumptions that we cannot fulfil a female gender role.
When I apply for jobs I know the employers would firstly be reluctant to offer a job to me because I am disabled, but also because I AM A WOMAN.
Disability causes poverty and on the other hand poverty leads too much greater chance of disability.
Disabled women are less likely to be in work and if they are they earn less. We are disproportionately more likely to be a part of informal economy.
This is why we have to rely on services and the support from social security system. Disabled women are more likely to rely on services and would be disproportionately affected by austerity measures.
Gender and disability mainstreaming
One way to ensure the specific needs of disabled women are met in the policymaking is to implement gender and disability mainstreaming. It is important to analyse the policies and assess their possible impact on disabled women. Disabled women should benefits from programmes targeted at women or at disabled people in general.
Disabled women are women and like all other women they are also protected by other international human rights instruments, CEDAW for example. Disabled women should enjoy all the rights guaranteed by CEDAW like all other women and as part of disability mainstreaming, disabled women should be considered when states monitor the implementation of CEDAW.
And finally, I would like to reiterate this point again. It is important to recognise that we all are different our different voices need to be heard and different experiences should be valued and taken into account.
Svetlana Kotova is one of the founding members of Sisters of Frida. She has conducted training on the CRPD with Disability Lib and is theÂ Policy and Campaigns Advisor at Sense. She is also the proud mother of a toddler daughter.
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.
Michelle Daley with Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska
Becky Olaniyi and Miss Jacqui
Q&A Panel on Brexit and other questions
Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper
some of the participants
Many thanks to Rosa UK for enabling this event
Event: Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am – 4.30pm
A Sisters of Frida Event
Please register at Eventbrite
ÂÂÂVenue: Blackfriars Settlement
1 Rushworth Street London, SE1 0RB
Date: Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Saturday 9 July 2016
Time:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 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
KIRSTEN HEARN is a long time blind lesbian feminist activist. Snarling at the patriarchy and agitating for Â Â inclusion since 1980,; she is founder member of Sisters Against Disablement; Womenâs tape over; Feminist audio Books, and an active member of Â a raft of other disability, womenâs and LGBT rights campaigns.
She seeks to cast all she does in a feminist light, believing that womenâs struggle speaks to the experiences of all other marginalised groups.Â Liberation for one group must not come at the sacrifice of another discriminated against groupâs 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 peopleâs organisation dedicated to campaigning against DV and hate crimes experienced by disabled people. She also speaks a lot.
SIMONE ASPIS is a disabled woman with over 20 years experience of successful campaigning for disabled peoplesâ rights.Â Â Her first taste of campaigning was leading People Firstâs campaign to secure civil rights and direct payments for people with learning difficulties in the Disability Discrimination and Direct Payments legislation.Â Â Thereafter she has taken up campaigns roles with Disabled Peoples Direct Action NetworkI Decide Coalition, Disabled Peoples Equal Rights To Life, United Kingdomâs Disabled Peopleâs 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 Partyâs Disabled Peoples Spokesperson and have stood as Parliamentary Perspective Candidate and Greater LondonÂ Authorityâs elections
BECKY OLANIYI isÂ 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 âthat disabled girlâ, 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.
MISS 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 Jacquiâs 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 Jacquiâs 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.
SOPHIE PARTRIDGEÂ 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. Â She is also a campaigner for the right of all Disabled People to live truly independently!
PENNY PEPPERÂ wrote the taboo-breaking book Desires Reborn in 2012 and in 2013 she won a Creative Futures Literary Award. InÂ September 2014 her one-woman spoken word show, Lost in Spaces, premiered to strong reviews at Soho Theatre, andÂ 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.
ANNABEL 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.
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.
Rosa May Billinghurst, disabled woman suffragette
Many thanks toÂ Dr. Sheila Hanlon for permission to repost this blog.
Rosa May Billinghurst: Suffragette on Three Wheels
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 womenâs suffrage and inspired her to join the Womenâs 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.
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 WSPUâs public processions. She attracted public attention by appearing dressed in white and wheeling along with her machine decked out in coloured WSPU ribbons and âVotes for Womenâ banners. Billinghurst rose to prominence as a recognizable public figure and became known as âthe cripple suffragette.â
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, âI 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.â
Billinghurst at a protest
Billinghurstâ efforts earned her several prison terms. In March 1912, she took part in the WSPU window smashing campaign, for which she received one monthâs hard labour. Doctor Alice Ker who was in jail at the time wrote to her daughters in April that year that âMiss 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.â
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 Pankhurstâs election campaign forThe Womenâs 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 womenâs 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.
Image: âThe Papers of Rosa May Billinghurst,â The Womenâs Library, Ref 7RMB
âBillinghurst Lettersâ and âAlice Ker Letters,â The Womenâs Library, Autograph Collection, Vol XXIX, 9/29, 1912-1913
Fran Abrams, Freedomâs Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes, (London: Profile Books, 2003)
Iris Dove, Yours in the Cause: Suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwhich and Woolwhich,1988.
Dr. Sheila HanlonÂ 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, TorontoÂ and is a former Research Fellow at The Women’s Library.
Freyja HaraldsdĂłttir: 22 random things that make me tired as a disabled woman
Many thanks toÂ Freyja HaraldsdĂłttir 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 –Â
I am tired of often needing to value other peopleâs 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 canât show matters of privileged women support who donât 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 donât 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 isnât 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 âhow is it going?â in stead of âhow are you feeling?â.
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 atÂ 100 years of Womenâs Civil Rights. International Conference Celebrating the Centenary of Womenâs Suffrage in Iceland, October 22.-23. 2015. (speech transcript)
Sam Ambreen: We are, none of us, beyond hope
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.Â 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.
I didnât 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. âMy former friendâs death was a blessing â some people are so sick, they are beyond helpâ.
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 controversialÂ 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 weâve normalised against anyone considered âotherâ).
I have CPTSD, a condition I am stuck with for the rest of my life because it is as the name suggests, complex. I didnât ask to be repeatedly put in harmâs way, with no chance of escape, itâs 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 youâre mental youâre convinced you deserve it) and so that I could hope for a better future, one where I can have a fulfilling life, where I wonât 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 theyÂ arise. I frequently say things that make other people uncomfortable. I donât do it intentionally, itâs 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 wasnât 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 Iâd 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 Iâd have the confidence to write my own blog, or weather a twitter storm. I didnât 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. Thatâs what friends do, Amanda, they love you despite your flaws. They understand there is nothing inherently wrong with you, that youâre a product of an unjust society and that to feel depressed or disconnected from the world is a sign youâre actually (most likely) a decent sort. I donât reject the mental ones, I welcome them with open arms, as they have me. I want to offer Amandaâs ex friend my condolences and wish for her to rest in peace. I am sorry you were stuck with people who didnât deserve you.
âIt is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.â Be wary of those who pretend they havenât a care in the world, more so the ones who genuinely donât.
is a blogger at Left At the Rights.
She also tweets as @HamHambreen
Attending the UN Commission on the Status of women #csw60
The sixtieth session of theÂ Commission on the Status of WomenÂ took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14 to 24 March 2016.
Representatives ofÂ Member States, UN entities, andÂ ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs)Â from all regions of the world attended the session.
The priority theme this year was the âWomenâs empowerment and its link to sustainable developmentâ with the review theme âthe elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girlsâ.
Why go this year?
I have been involved in the National Association of Womenâs Organisations (NAWO) for the past two years and am a core member of the UK CSW Alliance for Sisters of Frida. As an activist for gender and disability equality, I realise the impact and importance of the UN instruments in telling the state parties, and in particular, our own government of the treaties they have signed and to remind them of the legal and moral obligations. This might seem to be a quixotic task but it is evident that if we are not visible at those international spaces, our voices and concerns will definitely not be heard. Our government can also continue its faĂ§ade of fulfilling its duties and pontificate about its role in global leadership where gender equality is concerned. As a disabled woman activist, the two themes of empowerment and domestic violence are of particular importance. I was asked to be in a side event on disabled women and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by Enabled Women International to speak on the first goal â poverty, and in particular the role of the UK government and the impact on disabled women of government program cuts. And since we will be there, we organized our own side event, âSurvivors in a disabling environment, what does empowerment of disabled women mean globallyâ?
While we might question the expense (self-funding) and putting ourselves through the grueling schedule of the UN event, my colleague and SOF Steering Group member, Lucia Bellini (who came with me) clinched the decision by remarking that if we, from the global north could not get there (funding, access reasons) how much more difficult it would be for the disabled women in the global south? Having that in mind, we asked other disabled women whom we know from other parts of the world, Jamie Bolling (ENIL), Dr Huhanna Hickey (NZ) and Khairani Barokka (Indonesia)Â to record short clips (2 mins) so that they could join our voices.
What did we do there?
Here is a report with videos of the side events we spoke at on the Sisters of Fridaâs, a disabled womenâs collective, website.
It seems needless to note but nevertheless, my main impression of being at the UN, apart from the security, is the networking and diversity of people you meet. There was also the back to back schedule of events and discussions to attend â at the main UN building and at the Church Centre (CCUN) across the street. Even a conference junkie like myself found it difficult to negotiate and pin down the relevant ones to get to.
One of the sessions I attended which I thought would be of particular interest was a session on media and technology and the intersections with violence against women â the Safety Net Project at NNEDV (National Network to End Domestic Violence)Â with sister programmes in Canada, Australia (WESNET) and Ireland. (but not in the UK, why not?) They had resources with safety tips on how to be safe online and WESNET developed Webinars for practitioners working with women experiencing technology abuse. I am also most impressed by the toolkit âToolkit on Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities in FijiâÂ from the Pacific region.
As part of the UK CSW Alliance, we had our own briefings every morning and evening and also worked with the Government Equalities office head of EU and international policy, Charles Ramsden. The principal output of the Commission on the Status of Women is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. This year it was on the empowerment of women. Agreed conclusions contain an analysis of the priority theme and a set of concrete recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level. The importance of this is where we can monitor and hold our government. I suggested adding âwomen with disabilitiesâ on an item about planning for natural disasters and emergencies â well, we always get left behind in times like those.
I met several interesting disabled women leaders, not least a commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa, Ms Nomasonto Grace Mazibuko, with whom I had a very interesting conversation on albino-ism and the Namibian DeputyÂ MinisterÂ ofÂ DisabilityÂ Affairs, the Hon.Â AlexiaÂ Manombe-Ncube who wants to discuss about independent living in the UK. And of course fellow panelists Asha Hans (India), Adaobi Egboka (Nigeria) Â and Andrea Parra (Columbia) with the Enabled Women International, Stephanie Ortoleva. Daniela Bas, the Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.is a wheelchair user, was most approachable and friendly as were the disabled women from Fiji (on a session on domestic violence in the Pacific), Bangladesh, and Spain. It is clear that for an assembly as big as the CSW, there were not that many of us disabled women and our voices are very muted. It seems to me that we have to concentrate on the SDGs to make sure we are definitely not left behind in the âleaving no one behindâ aspiration.
Photos from the event are here (they are not in any order).
with Eleanor, Suzanna, Asha, Stephanie, Andrea and others before the panel session
The UK CSW Alliance with Charles Ramsden
–written by Eleanor Lisney
Eleanor 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. She enjoys being on the EVA (Electronic Visualisation & the Arts) London organising committee.
At UN #CSW60
Two Sisters of Frida were at New York city for the ~UN Â Committee for Status of Women #CSW60 – here are some of the sessions we took part there.
At Sustainable Development Goals or Sidelining Disabled Girls? Making SDGs Stand for All Women and GirlsÂ This side event was sponsored byÂ Women Enabled International, Sisters of Frida & Women with Disabilities India Network
Commission on the Status of Women â CSW60 Side Event
Title: Sustainable Development Goals or Sidelining Disabled Girls? Making SDGs Stand for All Women and Girls
Date and Time: Thursday, March 17 2:30 PM
Location: Church Center of the United Nations â Boss Room, 770 United Nations Plaza New York, NY
The SDGs offer a valuable platform to advance dialogues with States around key areas that impact the lives of women & girls. Yet, despite accounting for almost one-fifth of all women worldwide, disabled women and girls receive scant attention. As the global community undertakes the crucial task of identifying indicators to monitor progress toward the realization of the SDGs & hold States accountable for these commitments, it is essential that this process includes the voices of disabled women Â which reflects their experiences of intersecting forms of discrimination. This panel addresses four SDGs that bear on the rights of women with disabilities: Goal 1 (Poverty), Goal 3 (Health), Goal 5 (Gender Equality), & Goal 16 (Peace & Justice). Panelists will discuss barriers that disabled women Â face in realizing their rights as they relate to these goals & will address how SDG indicators can better reflect the realities of disabled women Â moving forward.
Eleanor Lisney (UK) â Goal 1 (Poverty) â impact on disabled women of government program cuts –
SDG goal 1. poverty transcript
At A Dialogue: Survivors in a disabling environment: what does empowerment of disabled women mean globally?
Date and Time: Thursday, March 24 12:30 PM
Location: Church Center of the United Nations â Chapel, 770 United Nations Plaza New York, NY
This panel will be discussing what would empowerment of disabled women mean locally, nationally and globally. We will try to include voices of disabled women (short video clips) from different parts of the world stating what it means to them.
Clip from Khairani Barokka (Indonesia)
Clip from Dr Huhanna Hickey (New Zealand)
Â Clip from Jamie Bolling, European Network of Independent Living (ENIL)
We will use the Social Model of Disability; that is to say it is systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently), that disable us. We will also look at the different nuances of violence against disabled women, the different forms of abuse and how disabled women in particular are affected. How they survive inspite of having to face numerous challenges/barriers wherever they are in the world.
Alexia Manombe-Ncube (Namibia)
Alexia is the Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs in the office of Vice President, Namibia. Recently appointed by President Hage Geingob to handle the affairs of physically challenged people, Manombe-Ncube has appealed to stakeholders to highlight the plight of the countryâs disabled people in order for her to realise her ministerial declaration of intent. She also urged stakeholders to apply all their energy towards the empowerment and development of the disabled and specifically to close the gender equality gap.
She champions those in the rural areas saying disabled are have less resources and left to crawl because they do not have wheelchairs like people in the cities. Alexia will be speaking on the status of disabled in Naimbia and her own empowerment as a minister.
Lucia Bellini (UK)
Lucia currently works as an advocate for disabled people who are victims of domestic violence. She is also a Disability Rights Advocate where she assists people to access care packages, to be re-housed, to apply for benefits and to appeal against decisions they are not happy with. She has a masters in Global Citizenship, Identity and Human Rights from the University of Nottingham. In 2008 to 2010, she worked with disabled peopleâs organisations in Guyana where she provided disability equality and project management training to many disabled people throughout the country. She is particularly passionate about ensuring disabled women feel empowered and equipped to make their own choices. Lucia will be speaking about disabled women caught up in domestic violence in the UK.
Michelle Baharier (UK)
Michelle (UK) is a visual artist and disabled activist with lived experience of mental-distress for over three decades. She set up and ran a disabled lead arts organisation changing the way disabled people were perceived in the main stream.
She has worked with womenâs organisations and on a telephone help line for women affected by violence, and with women from a variety of cultures including the Poppy Project which supports women who have been trafficked to the UK, the Diane project for Iranian women who need a safe place to be due to violence. Michelle will speak about her work with mental health survivors and their struggle for empowerment.
Suzannah Phillips (USA)
Suzannah is the Legal Advisor for Women Enabled International. Her work focuses on legal advocacy with the United Nations and other international and regional forums to strengthen human rights standards on the rights of women and girls with disabilities. Prior to joining WEI, Suzannah was the International Womenâs Human Rights Clinical Fellow at CUNY School of Law, Legal Adviser for International Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and a Human Rights Fellow with VIVO POSITIVO in Santiago, Chile. She is currently a member of the International Human Rights Committee at the New York City Bar Association. Suzannah received her J.D. from Columbia Law School and her B.A. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. Suzannah will be speaking on how different legal instruments can be used to support empowerment of disabled women especially with Women Enabled Internationalâs work.