Intersectionality and disability at WOW Festival 2017
Main talks programme panel âIntersectionality for Beginnersâ at Women of the World Festival 2017, in London South Bank. This panel featurered a keynote from Lydia X. Z. Brown and panel of Guppi Bola, Kuchenga Shenje, Emma Dabiri, and Eleanor Lisney (from Sisters of Frida) chaired by Hannah Azieb Poole. Transcripts kindly provided by Lydia)
This was the prepared speech by Eleanor LisneyÂ for the panel (but not read out)
When I came back to the UK to take up the position of relationship manager at a university, people told me I ticked many brownie points. I learn to realise they meant I had many disadvantages , because I was a woman, of an ethnic minority, and disabled. Some said it must be an advantage in applying for jobs but believe me, it isnât . This is before I even heard of the term â intersectionalityâ, the multiple oppression that arise out of having multiple identities, Â and understand the impact it had on my life and that of others.
In January, I was invited to speak as a Sister of Frida at a hearing at the European Parliament on domestic violence and disabled people, and I used a personal example when mentioning intersectionality. When I was living in France I went through a divorce process, the court saw me as a non white, disabled woman with a bad grasp of the French language. My ex, a white British man, is an internationalÂ civil servant, had many human rights’ lawyers as his friends. I did not even know French divorce laws were different from those in the UK.
I think it was partly from that experience I co founded Sisters of Frida – understanding the complexity of having multiple identities- and also itâs inÂ Article 6 of the Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities.
States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The UK has ratified the CRPD and In fact, quite a few of disabled activists are heading for Geneva because of the examination of the uk govt for its implementation. I wanted to go but it conflicted with the international womenâs day events and me here at WOW.Â Disability and feminism. Women organisations do not know much about disability and disabled peopleâs organisations are gender neutral, we hope to build bridges there and make a change. Just insisting on our rights to be heard and to make spaces more inclusive and accessible are challenges. I hope we have made some difference. If I make a mention here, one Sister of Frida, is Rebecca Bunce who is a co founder of IChange has campaigned tirelessly for the Istanbul Convention and spoken on the need for access at public spaces for disabled women.
The disability movement is very white here and we would like to promote and make black and ethnic minority women more visible. Itâs a natural reaction that you donât join when you canât identify with the people in it. And to show that they are not just engaged in being there as recipients but also in leadership roles. Â We have had discussions on disability and theÂ cultural differences on the impact of disability. Many BME women come and share with me about their disabilities but they do not self identify (unless itâs a physical visible impairment ) as disabled peopleÂ because of the negative perspectives, stigma and non representation. But I know this goes for other communities not justÂ for Black and women of colour .
And in the UK austerity measures by this government have meant that the intersections of being BME and disabled and women mean that many of us are reeling from the compounding cuts in benefits and services. In all areas of our lives.
My friend and fellow Co founder of SoF, Michelle Daley, has spoken on the importance of intersectionality and the social services on Wednesday, she speaks as a black disabled woman
I quote her:
“I am a woman, a black woman and a disabled woman. In most areas of my life I’m forced to compartmentalised my different intersections…. I relate this point from one of my assessments of need. So when I explained that I needed help with skin care, which is not related to my impairment, it was dismissed. The assessor had no knowledge about skin sensitive and dryness often experienced by Black People and the need for daily skin care to prevent discomfort. In this example it demonstrated how my different intersections as a Black Disabled Woman were not considered and how they interact with each other. ”
She is chairing the SoF panel at 1.15 this afternoon. I recommend you go listen to her and my other Sisters at that panel.Â Thank you.
Why does much of the womenâs rights movement marginalise disabled women?
During the last weekend in London at the Women of the World Festival (WOW) a panel of speakers discussed why disability is so often left out of conversations about intersectionality, and surveyed the key battlegrounds that disabled women are fighting on.
The panel was organized by Sisters of Frida.
Speakers included Lydia X. Z. Brown, disability rights activist; Magdalena Szarota, Polish disability rights activist and HIA Polska Board Member; Sarifa Patel of Newhamâs Disability Forum; and Simone Aspis, Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) campaigner. Chaired by Michelle Daley of the Sisters of Frida disabled womenâs collective.”
Other photos from the Women of the World Festival with SoF and disabled women at FlickrÂ Â Â
We collaborated on ‘Disabled women missing from history’ these were exhibited at the cafe of the Royal Festival Hall
Disabled women speak at the WoW Festival
If you are going to the Women of the World Festival 10th – 12th March, here are some ot the sessions to look out for – these are with Sisters of Frida and friends as speakers
1:15 pm, 10 Mar 2017
Women’s Day Off (with Women’s Equality Party)
11.30Â The Clore Ballroom, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall
Lydia X.Z. Brown and Eleanor Lisney
Disability, women taking action (Sisters of Frida Panel)
1.15 Blue Bar, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall
Green Bar, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall
The Clore Ballroom, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall
Weston Roof Pavilion, Level 6, Green side, Royal Festival Hall
At the European Parliament: Domestic violence against people with disability
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.
Embla and Freyja were giving their testimonies on behalf ofÂ the next day on domestic violence against disabled people. Here is their speech for TabĂș.
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 andÂ 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 articleÂ ‘Cuts mean government âis complicit in high levels of domestic violenceâ on their appearance.
Ana PelĂĄez, the Chair of the European Disability Forum (EDF) Womenâs 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 donât 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 donât 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 PelĂĄez EPÂ (Word doc) speech in full that she kindly send us.
It was wonderful to meet Madelen LĂ¶w from We Rise Again (Sweden) who spoke her powerful testimony
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
MEP Soraya Post invited the civil society, NGOâs 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 âthere is a gap in Womenâs organisations and disabled peopleâs organisations
- – advocate disabled womenâs rights â 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 â 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,Â 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 â
- Access to education â 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 â including web accessibility, for knowing whatâs 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 â 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 â 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 âluckyâ to be in a relationship even if it is an abusive relationship and there is a real fear of care support being withdrawn.Â Disabled women see violence and abuse as âpart of lifeâ : 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.
Professor Stankoâs (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.
âThese women face almost unsurmountable obstacles to justice, their rape is highly unlikely to carry a sanction, and in that sense, it is decriminalised.â
âVictim vulnerabilities effectively protect suspects from being perceived as credible rapistsâ.
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.
Cold, chaotic and claustrophobic at times – but we were there at the Women’s March last Saturday!
We sent out this press release on the day of the march
âSisters of Frida are joining the Womenâs 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.
âWhilst 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 Womenâs March on London to open up this space to those unable to join us today.
âThis 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.
âDisabled 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.â
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 theÂ disabled women voices.
We thank the Women’s Equality Party for their support.
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 theÂ 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. Â 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. Â 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.
And if you’re unable to march on Saturday?Â
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 onÂ Pall MallÂ from the north, at the bottom of Regent Street; from the south,Â 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,Â 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A Big thank you to Queer Cafe!
Folks at Queer cafe were kind enough to invite Sisters of Frida to give a talkÂ 2nd October and offered to donate their takings for the evening.
Dyi Huijg and Eleanor Lisney went along that night and Dyi gave a talk on disability. We had a lively Questions and Answers session after the talk. We also had some excellent vegan food.
Thank you Queer Cafe people for being so kind and generous and giving us a great welcome!
They can be contacted at @queercaff
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.
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
Here are the videos from the dayÂ Disabled Womenâs Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am â 4.30pmÂ
Introduction by Annabel Crowley
Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper
transcript coming soon
Guests speakers – Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska
Many thanks to for funding this event