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
Focus Group participants required: Why Women-Only services matter.
To feed into the Womenâs Resource Centresâ (WRC) research into Why Women-Only services matter.
Save the date!
Saturday, 10th December
Arrive from 1:30 (tea and coffee available), 2-4pm Focus Group.
Unit 3 Marquis Estate, St Pauls Road N1 2SY.
The Number 30 and 277 runs past us and we are a short walk from Canonbury Station which is fully wheelchair accessible.
We would like between 8 â 15 women who access / are a part of Sisters of Frida to be participants in one of our focus groups.
We would provide all women service users who participate in the focus group ÂŁ30 as a small thank you.
WRC are updating their Why Women-Only research, originally completed in 2007. WRC’s members want this research updated because the need for robust, concrete evidence of the importance and value of women-only services remains vital. The link to the original research is here:
We are running 6 focus groups, with a range of diverse women-only services. In the focus group I will ask questions about why accessing a ‘by women for women’ service is important to them, and what difference coming to a women-only service has made to their lives; what being in a peer-led group means to them, and what kind of issues they are exploring through Sisters of Frida. I will be facilitating the focus groups, which will each run for a maximum of two hours.
The focus groups will be completely confidential. No service user will be identified in the research. I will record focus groups on a Dictaphone, and transcriptions will be used to outline themes, and to use quotes. You can get a copy of the focus group transcript if you wish.
The research is due to be published in March 2017.
Focus groups conducted by Darlene Corry. Please send n email to email@example.com if interested.
Disability and sexuality film day: Sat 26 Nov, Islington, London
After the 4 workshops on disability and sexuality, Sisters of Frida is presenting films which explore themes of disability and sexuality.
Films to make you:Â Think, feel, laugh, shake, desire and moreâŚ..
With food and discussion
Please note the films contain controversial themes, they also contain scenes of nudity and frank explicit discussion of sexual acts and sexual desire as well as scenes depicting violence.
Date and Time
Sat 26 November 2016, 12:00 â 17:00 GMT
Disability Action In Islington, unit 3 Marquess Estate
St Paul’s Road, London N1 2SY
Please register at the event briteÂ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
(A rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy leaves her home in India to study in New York, unexpectedlyfalls in love, and embarks on an exhilarating journey of self-discovery.
With Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta)
and Sins Invalid
(“Sins Invalid is a performance project on disability and sexuality that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized from social discourse”)
Please register at the event briteÂ
or write to email@example.comÂ
At Youth Action Festival: our rights as women and girls
Sisters of Frida was invited to give a workshop at the Plan UK #Standupforgirls Youth Action Fest last Saturday following the success of last year’s event. We were lucky that Fleur Perry agreed to help us run a workshop on Inclusive Campaigning.
Eleanor and Fleur had about 10 participants – we discussed access and showed a couple of videos and quite a few discussions. Participants were incensed to hear of Fleur’s difficulties to get to the event because her issues with wheelchair spaces on the train. We discussed disability itself and what it is – it was good to hear their perceptions and solutions towards more awareness. It was clear that they enjoyed Fleurs’s delivery and that she enjoyed it too.
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.
End panel Brexit discussion
SISTERS FRIDA â DISABLED WOMENâS VOICES FROM THE FRONTLINE
Blackfriars Settlement 9 July 2016
END PANEL DISCUSSION
Panel: Kirsten Hearn, Miss Jacqui, Pauline Latchen, Eleanor Lisney, Becky Olaniyi,
Jagoda Risteska, Jasmina Risteska, Annabel Crowley
Contributers: Michelle Daley, Dyi,
Eleanor introduced an update from Dyi. The Disability and Sexuality project that Djy
and Lani have piloted with an initial meeting last autumn has now got funding to go
ahead. The next meeting will be in July at the New Union Church Hall and thereafter
every month. The project will provide a safe space to discuss issues around
disability and sexuality. More information and details are listed on the Sisters of
Annabel noted that the day had involved lots of interesting and powerful
conversations. The Brexit vote had provided a focus for discussion: the situation
was already difficult before we faced leaving the European Union and things will be
likely to get more difficult: now is the time to make sure we have a voice.
Eleanor commented that if she had not been at this event, she would have been at
Conway Hall to support a rally of Black Activists Against Racism to protest against
spending cuts. As she was unable to attend that rally, Eleanor had written a letter of
support and solidarity which she read out.
Annabel asked everyone what were their concerns in the light of Brexit.
Becky said that she felt there was not a lot of clear information about Brexit,
especially for young people; they should have had an opportunity to contribute and
make decisions. Older people believed that leaving the EU would mean that the
money saved would be paid into the NHS etc. Young people had mainly voted to
remain in the EU but were not really clear why â and people needed to be clear
Dyi raised the issue of being an EU citizen living in the UK going forward. We need
to think about the reality of that situation, for example in relation to peopleâs status
with the NHS. This is a real issue for EU citizens in the UK who rely on the NHS â
though of course it may be different for those who donât. However, Dyi pointed out,
there is also a lot of inequality in relation to healthcare within the rest of the EU.
Annabel asked if Dyi would be looking for wider consultation with EU migrants to
have more information about the implications of Brexit for them. Dyi replied that she
is looking into the legal implications and building up an information bank on relevant
services as a resource which she will be happy to share with others.
Michelle said that we donât know what the future will look like. She had voted to
remain in the EU, and there was not, had not been, enough information about what
Brexit would look like, or how our lives will be changed by it.
Kirsten said that the whole Brexit campaign had been based on lies, especially about
the NHS and migration. Secondly, all the years of austerity have influenced people,
especially poorer people: these people see migrants and refugees as competing with
them for jobs, services and benefits and these myths are further spread by
politicians, who paint migrants as lazy scroungers. Migrants enrich our country,
however, and it is not true that all migrants come to Britain to claim benefits rather
than to work. Kirsten said that in her local community there has been an increase in
racial hate crime and that the referendum result is advisory rather than mandatory
and parliament should act accordingly. The government should now consider what
things can stay the same and what should change: for example things like
wheelchair spaces on buses and braille labelling, these sorts of things should stay.
Michelle said that when her parents came to the UK, there were signs in public
spaces saying âNo dogs, no Irish, no Blacksâ and we are going back to those days
and with the same discrimination against disabled people.
Miss Jacqui said that the people who had voted to leave didnât really know what they
were voting for. Whatever political party is in power, disabled people â disabled
women especially, will be at the bottom of the agenda. Politicians donât consider
that the decisions they make now will still affect us in ten yearsâ time. Starting a new
political party is the only solution. She was not happy with David Cameron as prime
minister but is not happy at what may follow his resignation. We need to find and
develop our voice and consider where does it feel safe to talk.
Becky said so many politicians are leaving their jobs, and Michelle said it was their
job to have a plan (going forward). Becky said politicians exist in a bubble, all this
doesnât affect them, they donât think: itâs about the money they can make, the secret
deals and they only think about what affects them. Kirsten said she felt quite
Annabel said we do have voices however we express ourselves. How do we build
and expand on safe spaces to express ourselves? Kirsten said that we need to talk
to the communities that voted for Brexit, especially poor people, people who are
alienated. She is trying to talk to people in her street who voted leave, to try to
understand why they did â we havenât listened to them in the past. One issue is
employment: people going for jobs, not that skilled, which go to migrants: âTheyâre
taking our jobsâ. That, and well qualified people paid low wages for jobs theyâre over-
qualified for and all the time the right-wing press reinforce the view that migrants are
Dyi said that there is a history of colonialism, racism and imperialism and we should
consider what Sisters of Frida can do to support each other. Annabel said we should
consider what resources â communities and spaces â we can build on and share.
Pauline said that wages are being driven down but itâs not the fault of migrant
workers: low wages here are better than whatâs on offer in their own countries. We
should blame the government and business owners, not the migrants. Miss Jacqui
said that some people are really picky about what jobs they will take: if you really
want a job youâll take anything, you will find a job. Blaming migrants is just an
excuse. Michelle said the government is using a tactic of divide, rule and conquer
and what happened in the referendum is just history repeating itself.
In conclusion, Annabel said the discussion could continue on line: this is one way we
can add disabled womenâs voices to the discussion. Maybe there could be a Brexit
forum page on the SOF website; a lot of disability rights have come from the EU and
therefore the discussion could link in disabled friends in Europe.
All present were invited to pass on their email addresses to receive further updates.
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