logo

Bringing disabled women together, mobilising
and sharing through lived experiences

Subscribe To Newsletter

Exciting new project on skills development for Sisters of Frida!

about eleven/twelve women looking/listening intently. some are wheelchair users.

Participants at a previous Sisters of Frida event

New peer led skills development course for disabled women

(Start date  and venue TBD probably end of June)

Sisters of Frida is proud to announce a new peer led skills development course for disabled women.

Following our successful projects ‘Disabled women’s voices from the frontline‘ and Disability and Sexuality, Rosa funding is funding us to further develop disabled women’s skills and leadership in a space led by and for disabled women. This exciting project will span 12 months and will give the participants opportunities to

  • develop facilitation skills
  • presentation skills
  • and research skills
  • identifying your own specific skills

The project will be split into two parts. The first part will consist of three sessions aimed at building facilitation skills and confidence for the participants we will then go on to design a further seven sessions tailored specifically to the needs of the group and individuals within the group. You will have a mentor who will support you in gaining skills in the area of work which you are interested in you will then share the skills and knowledge through a facilitated workshop designed and facilitated by you.

 

Ideas for topics include

  • disabled women and domestic violence
  • sexuality and disabled women
  • building campaigns and spaces wich work for all disabled women
  • working with disabled young people
  • arts and self-expression
  • re thinking work for/with disabled women
  • building support networks in challenging interpersonal violence

The list is not exhaustive and will be led by the participants. There are limited spaces on this program, please get in touch if you are interested to hello@sisofrida.org

rosa fund logo

In memory of Eleanor Firman

Eleanor Firman in Geneva UN, 2013

We are very sorry to learn that Eleanor Firman, a strong activist in East London, died last weekend. She was passionate about housing, peace, benefits, but anti racism and disability rights were her biggest concerns. Her death was sudden and unexpected. She had attended a fund raising dinner on Saturday night and was reported to be on good form.

Eleanor was also a founding member of Sisters of Frida and served on the Steering Group. She attended a meeting in Strasbourg for us at a European Parliament Disability Intergroup and then to Geneva as part of the CEDAW working Group coordinated by the Women Resource Centre in 2013. A committed advocate for women’s and disability rights, she was in the Women Against the Cuts and also a Disabled People Against Cuts member. She was in Left Unity Disabled Member’s Caucus for some time. She had wanted to be a Labour councillor in her ward.

One detail that might not be commonly known is that Eleanor was an accomplished musician and a composer before she changed her focus onto activism and campaigning.

We send our utmost sympathy to her partner Gerry, and her family, brother, Richard, her father , Peter, neice Jess and all her friends.

She is a great loss to all of us. We will miss her warmth, her passion, creativity and friendship. She never failed to help and stood up for what she saw as injustice – even when it is at a cost to herself.

written by Eleanor Lisney

SOF CRPD Shadow Report : UK Initial Report on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have come together to tell a UN committee the different ways in which the UK government has been breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). See Disability News Service ‘s article DPOs join forces to brief UN on how UK has breached disability convention 

Sisters of Frida wrote a short shadow report on 3 Articles with List of Issues. We also contributed to the ROFA shadow report.

See also ROFA Newsletter March 2017, UN Disability Committee Special

4 people in front of the UN building, 3 white women with white man at the back. They are crouching.

ROFA team at the UN in Geneva

ROFA (Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance) Shadow Report (WORD doc(PDF ) and List of Issues (WORD doc) (PDF)  Sisters of Frida is a member of ROFA.

 

2017 Sisters of Frida AGM

Notes from the AGM

The event, held at the Blackfriars Settlemnt, started at 12.00 pm with lunch and networking and meeting started at 1.00 pm.

 

  1. Welcome & Introductions

 

The meeting began with housekeeping and introductions, and confirmation of photo consent from those attending.

 

  1. Achievements of the past year:

 

Disabled Women’s Voices From the Front Line July 2016

Women of the World (WOW) Festival, Southbank 2016 & 2017

Disability and Sexuality Workshops

Other achievements listed but not discussed in detail included:

A Women’s Feminist Salon at Oxford University with Eleanor and Zara discussing intersectionality at that event.

Spoke at

Fawcett Society annual conference(Eleanor)

Green Party Conference (attended by Sarah)

Global Disabled Women’s training on UN Instruments (attended by Eleanor in Geneva)

A Conference in Germany around UN Law on CRPD (attended by Sarah)

Plan UK Festival for Girls (training given by Fleur and Eleanor)

A project lead by the Women’s Resource Centre  on disadvantaged women’s  (Sophie and Eleanor) also videos on-line.

A United Nations Commission on Status of Women, New York attended by Eleanor, Lucia and Michelle Baharier from Sisters of Frida, also lead a side event.

Women Speak Out an event at the Women’s Resource Centre.

  • Sisters of Frida in Three Years’ Time

Lani introduced a group exercise to understand where people would like Sisters of Frida to be in 3 years’ time.  Everyone present assembled into groups of 3 – 4, with each group aiming to achieve 1 – 5 newspaper headlines that described their aspirations for the organisation.

  • Strategy Road Map

Lani introduced an activity evaluation table giving an overview of areas of work, and current and recent projects.  The table was a starting point to assess what has been done in the last year and help Sisters of Frida to plan for the next 3 years.

Each of the 3 groups above took a section of the table to work through.

 

group of 9 women, 4 are wheelchair users. There is a male child of mixed heritage. here are 2 East Asians and 2 black women. one woman had both her hands out in an embracing gesture

group photo at the end of the AGM

other photos from the AGM are on the flickr.

 

 

 

Intersectionality and disability at WOW Festival 2017

Main talks programme panel “Intersectionality for Beginners” 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 Lisney  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 isn’t . This is before I even heard of the term ‘ intersectionality’, the multiple oppression that arise out of having multiple identities,  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 international  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 it’s in  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 women’s day events and me here at WOW.  Disability and feminism. Women organisations do not know much about disability and disabled people’s 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. It’s a natural reaction that you don’t join when you can’t 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.  We have had discussions on disability and the  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 it’s a physical visible impairment ) as disabled people  because of the negative perspectives, stigma and non representation. But I know this goes for other communities not just  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.  Thank you.

 

row of people at the front. Photo taken from the back, with many rows of headss

Sisters of Frida Panel at the WoW Festival 2017

Why does much of the women’s 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 Newham’s Disability Forum; and Simone Aspis, Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) campaigner. Chaired by Michelle Daley of the Sisters of Frida disabled women’s collective.”

Other photos from the Women of the World Festival with SoF and disabled women at Flickr   

3 wheelchair users, oneyoung black, one middle aged East Asian and another white young woman. They are smiling at the camera.e

Becky, Eleanor and Emma

Sarah Rennie on the WEP panel

We collaborated on ‘Disabled women missing from history’ these were exhibited at the cafe of the Royal Festival Hall

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sarah Rennie: Women’s Day Off?

Women's panel with one white woman speaking into the mic. $ other seated women, one wheelchair user and one woman in a headscarf.

Sarah Rennie on the WEP panel – photo by WEP Hackney&Islington

On Saturday, at Women of the World festival, I found myself on the panel for the planning meeting of ‘Women’s Day Off’.  This is being organised by the Women’s Equality Party for 2017 to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act and calls all women to not perform any paid or unpaid work for one day to raise awareness of gender inequality.

In my two minutes, I raised the issues of inclusion and shame.

Disabled women must be included in the organisation of the day and there needs to be a range of channels through which we can participate. We are providing paid and unpaid work and being exploited too. In fact we’re hit harder:

  • Disabled men experience a pay gap of 11% compared with non-disabled men, while the gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is double this at 22%.
  • The pay gap between disabled men and women in employment is 14% [Footnote: Disability in the UK 2016: Facts and Figures, Papworth Trust (2016)]

So whichever way you slice it (by gender or disability) we are disproportionately impacted

Events must be inclusive and, in my view, those who spoke out agreed with this objective. But this has to follow through to the realities of the day. It requires organisers (formally and informally) to critique any buildings, spaces and materials, to carefully plan all events so that meetings and rallies are inclusive and to provide ‘virtual’ participation channels for those that cannot participate physically. This leads me to support needs. How will I  participate if my support system breaks down for the day because my PA team have jumped on a coach to London and I’m lying in bed bursting for the loo?

Let’s face it, my PAs won’t leave me. So they won’t take the ‘day off’. This is a problem for the WEP campaign. My PAs are underpaid and undervalued by the State – they should be near the front of any rallies and marches but probably won’t be. Perhaps our solution will be that I inform my local authority that I have a credible belief my PAs will ‘strike’ that day and this will put them on notice that I will be in danger. A contingency plan will need to be put in place. Even if my PAs come to work that day, the time it will take to put this plan in place will cause disruption and inconvenience for local authorities and WEP’s objectives will be virtually met.

Now I turn to the second issue which concerns me: shame. The campaign organisers need to be very clear and firm with enthusiastic feminist activists to be careful about the language they use. Take, for example, the phrase “burden of care”. Firstly, I receive support, not care. Let’s not disempower disabled women. Secondly, we are not ‘a burden’ on the state or our support networks. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse. Campaigners who major on the ‘burden of care’ risk adding to the emotional abuse we are already experiencing.

It is important that the campaign keeps us included in the planning process in order to allow disabled women to amplify the messages and add our protest. But it must also take responsibility for preventing attacks on our safety and dignity; we cannot be collateral damage in this day of action.

 

 

Sarah Rennie, a young looking blonde short haired wheelchair user with an Asian young looking woman next to her. behind them is a bright pink WOW sign in lights/

Sarah Rennie with friend, Natasha Hettihewa-Young

Sarah Rennie is a director of the Wisdom Factory CIC, a social enterprise in Birmingham. As a former solicitor, her day-to-day work is research and governance advice. However, Sarah delivers disability equality training nationwide and acts as a consultant for select clients on internal equality working groups. She is also vice-Chair of the city’s Access Committee. She is also on the Sisters of Frida Steering Group.

Disabled women speak at the WoW Festival

wow logoIf 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

Friday

The Genius Gap: women and creativity

Khairani Barokka

1:15 pm, 10 Mar 2017

Saturday

11.30

Women’s Day Off (with Women’s Equality Party)

Sarah Rennie

Intersectionality for beginners

11.30  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

Lydia X.Z Brown, Sarifa Patel, Michelle Daley, Simone Aspis, Magdalena Szarota

3:00 pm, Rambert, Marie Rambert Studio
How can we challenge the stigma around women’s mental health

Sunday

11.30

No Country for Young Women

Green Bar, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall

Becky Olaniyi

11.30am

Why Toilets are no joke for women

The Clore Ballroom, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall

Eleanor Lisney

Green Bar, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall
1:15 pm

Breaking the Silence – Giving Testimony

Weston Roof Pavilion, Level 6, Green side, Royal Festival Hall

Emma Round

Gender Revolution

Exhibition

Missing From History

 

 

 

Blogs/websites from Sisters of Frida

Here we are featuring some of the blogs/websites by Sisters of Frida

Michelle Daley’s website

Michelle, a black woman, wearing a white top, is speaking in front of a microphone

Michelle Daley

Hello! I’m Michelle Daley and I’m a proud black disabled woman. I was born and raised in the East End of London to Jamaican parents that moved to England in the 1950’s. I have worked in the disability field for over 15 years on international, national and local issues for public sector and voluntary organisations. I am privileged that through my work I am able to express myself and support others to do the same.

Here’s where you can find out more about my career background.

Why follow me?

Through endless surfing it is clear that there is a lack of representation by British black disabled people in archives and on-line particularly from British black disabled women. I want to share resources including some of my own works, post blogs and for you to share your own experiences.

Kirsty Liddiard’s website

Kirsty, a white woman, with short hair is looking at the camera. She is wearing a black top.

Dr Kirsty Liddiard

I am currently a Research Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield. Prior to this post, I became the inaugural Ethel Louise Armstrong Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

I’m a disabled feminist and public sociologist who believes in the power and politics of co-production and arts methodologies. To me, research is inherently political, personal, and embodied, and collaborative and always community-focused. This website details my scholarly and research interests, as well as my activist work. Please feel free to have a look around, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

 

Zara Todd’s adventure blog

Zara, a white woman, is smiling at the camera. she has black rimmed glasses on

Zara Todd

I am a human rights activist from the UK. I have a background in disability, training and youth participation work. I identify as a disabled person and Feminist. I belive in equity and using intersectional and inclusive approaches.

This blog is primarily to document my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship

A bit more about me

I am a born and bred Londoner who loves art, culture, travel and politics (although i am a left leaning non partisan).

I have a degree in psychology and a masters in Eastern European studies. I am interested in identity and decision making.

I have been involved in disability rights campaigning since childhood and have been active locally, nationally and internationally in the disabled peoples movement since the age of 17. Over the last 10 years I have worked in government and the NGO sector both in advisory and delivery roles.

Prior to this trip I was working for the biggest DPO in the UK Equal Lives .

I am a trustee of a children’s literature charity outside in world and a board member of ENIL and chair of it’s youth network.
I am also a director of Sisters of Frida, a disabled women’s collective.

Eleanor Thoe Lisney’s website

Eleanor, an East Asian woman, is holding a mic. Her left hand is extended and she has an orange scarf with black markings.

Eleanor Lisney

Hi, I am Eleanor Thoe Lisney MA, MSIS, FRSA, AMBCS. I am passionate about access, human rights, disability culture, intersections of race, gender, disability. I am learning how to do digital strategy and smartphone film making. Recently I have become an emerging artist and making progress there.

I am a founding member and coordinator of Sisters of Frida,  a disabled women’s collective and Culture Access.

 

Sophie Partridge’s website

Sophie, a white woman looks to the left, has short hair wearing a grey top.

Sophie Partridge


I work as an actor, writer & workshop artist, if you are interested in employing me for any such work, I would love to hear from you.

I am a disabled Actor living in London, who trained with Graeae Theatre Co. I have worked extensively since, including my 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. My Media work also includes photo modelling, corporate video and radio.

I also Write and regularly contributor to various print & on-line publications, including Able Magazine (column writer for 2 years) and Disability Arts on-line (blog & reviews). This, along-side writing my solo piece, Song of Semmersuaq. I’m also embarking on a new project.. so read this place!

Please read my resumés for more details of my work.

Lani Parker’s Sideway Times The Podcast

Lani, a white woman is smiling, and wearing a red top.

Lani Parker

Sideways Times is a UK based podcast, in which we talk about the politics of disability and disability justice. Through this podcast I hope to have many conversations which broaden, deepen and challenge our understandings of how we work against ableism and how this connects to other struggles.

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.