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A ‘human catastrophe’ – New UN condemnation for UK human rights record

The UK Government’s claim to be a ‘world leader in disability issues’ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the government’s compliance with the Convention.

The Observations conclude last week’s public examination of the UK Government’s record on delivering disabled people’s rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee”. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Government’s failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the government’s “lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiry” which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights’.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed as the genuine “world leaders” for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.

The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations has issued the following joint statement:

“Today the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Government’s record on Deaf and Disabled People’s human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is no longer acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.

UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment.  However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.

DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Government’s blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.

Michelle Daley, a Director of Sisters of Frida, said –

“The rights of disabled women and girls have not been systematically mainstreamed in the UK. The UN is obviously recognising this.

The proper collection of disaggregated data has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.

We welcome the Committee’s recommendation that the State allocates resources to support representative organisations for disabled women and girls and secure our strategic involvement and contributions in legislation. Perhaps this would, in future, avoid abhorrent situations like the ‘best interests’ defence for carers committing coercive and controlling abuse which the Government introduced without consulting us.”

Notes to editors:

  •     The Concluding Observations are published on the Committee’s webpage (UK section) : http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1158&Lang=en
  •     DDPOs across the UK have worked in coproduction to collect evidence and compile the reports through the Review process. The delegation of DDPOs present in Geneva w/c 21st August 2017 included Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance, British Deaf Association, People First Scotland, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Inclusion London, Disabled People Against Cuts, Equal Lives, Black Triangle, Sisters of Frida, Black Mental Health UK.
  •     Contributions were also received from Innovations in Dementia, HFT and Intersex NGO Coalition.
  •     On 23rd and 24th August the examination of the UK Government took place in Geneva, with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People. The report of the dialogue can be found here, with links to submission documents: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21993&LangID=E
  •     The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation of disabled people’s rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. The findings expressed concern of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The Review looked at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.

Inquiry report, 2016: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/InquiryProcedure.aspx

  •     A lay person’s guide to the Review process and Examination can be found here: www.disabilitywales.org/crpd17
  •     Statistics about disabled women: http://www.sisofrida.org/resources/disabled-women-facts-and-stats/
  •     Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. It is a defence for accused abusers to show that they believe their behaviour was in the victim’s best interests and reasonable.

Peer led skills development course for disabled women

women in groups - one at a table bsuy conversing with each other

At a Sisters of Frida event

Following our successful projects ‘Disabled women’s voices from the frontline’ and ‘Disability and Sexuality’, Sisters of Frida are excited to launch a new peer-led skills development course for disabled women, led by disabled women. This course is supported by a grant from Rosa, The UK Fund for Women and Girls.

 

The project will run from September 2017 until May 2018 and will give participants opportunities to

 

  • develop facilitation, presentation and research skills
  • gain and share knowledge in an area of interest
  • put this knowledge into practice
  • meet and work with new people

 

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 number of further sessions tailored specifically to the needs of 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. This could include building campaigns, arts and self-expression, challenging interpersonal violence – the possibilities are endless! You will then share the skills and knowledge through a workshop designed and led by you.

 

Where and when

The first part of the course will take place on the weekend of the 16-17th September at the YHA in Kings Cross, Central London. This will be a facilitation skills course.

 

The structure and timings of the following workshops will be agreed by the group following this initial training.

 

Who is it for?

The course is for any self-identified disabled women (trans, intersex and cis) non-binary and gender non-conforming people but not people who identify solely or primarily as men. Sisters of Frida follows the social model. We especially encourage people who do not have much previous experience in facilitation, public speaking and events-organising, and if interest exceeds spaces, we will prioritise those with less experience.

 

There are limited spaces on this program. If you think you may be interested, please get in touch by the 1st of September. Please tell us a little bit (just a few words) about what you’re interested in and why you would like to participate.

If you need a BSL interpreter or other access needs, please let us know asap.

Contact: hello@sisofrida.org / 07876 742600

Empty Room with a long rounded end table with 12 black chairs. There are pictures on the light walls.

Meeting room at the YHA, 79-81 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2QE

Zara Todd to Brussels as new ENIL Director!

Sisters of Frida would like to give huge congratulations to Zara Todd for her new post as the incoming director of ENIL.

She will be taking over from Jamie Bolling, who has been a great supporter of Sisters of Frida. We give her our best wishes for her next plans and some of us hope to see her at this years Freedom Dive in Brussels.

We’re happy that Zara will continue as one of the Sisters of Frida’s directors.

 

Zara (in white rainwear) with Sisters of Frida  Eleanor with banner , Lucia behind Eleanor with stipey umbrella and Ines (from ECCL) behind Zara. Miro is also there with PA and Kate, with black umbrella

Zara (in white rainwear) with Sisters of Frida at the 2013 Freedom Drive in Strasbourg,  Eleanor with banner , Lucia behind Eleanor with black stripey umbrella and Ines (from ECCL) behind Zara. Miro (from ENIL) is also there with his PA and Kate, with black umbrella

 

Zara with John Evans at Freedom Drive in Brussels 2015 . Shes wearing the Freedom Drive tee shirt under her coat

Zara with John Evans at Freedom Drive in Brussels 2015

 

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 September now.)

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

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

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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

 

 

 

Sisters of Frida AGM 25th March 2017 1-3.30 pm

Please do come to our AGM at Blackfriars Settlement 

from 1 to 3.30 pm with a steering group meeting 3.30 – 5pm.

Refreshments (tea and coffee offered)

BSL interpretation offered.

Please send access requirements to hello@sisofrida.org

And sign up at the eventbrite.

Looking forward to seeing you all!