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 Todd: I Will Not Settle
Activist, educator, campaigner, feminist and disabled woman, all these terms are used to describe meÂ and I have been known use them to describe myself. Of course they are only a snapshot of the many identities and labels I have and they will continue to evolve over time. However of my identities, two identities tend to dominate people’s perception of what I should expect in life: disabled and woman.
I am, with all my being political (although I am decidedly non-partisan when it comes party politics) and I pride myself on being present and active in my world. Yet every day I get aÂ question or comment normally edged with surprise or admiration at the life I lead. Society doesn’t know what to do with me because I don’t conform to the boxes that have been created by society to understand the experience for disabled people. People expect my life to be less interesting than my non disabled peers and are shocked when it is as or more interesting than others my age. I enjoy my life and try and live it to the full but I experience many barriers in doing so and face exclusion frequently.
Despite the challenge my life and my achievements present to people’s perceptions, there is still a prevailing undercurrent in many of my interactions that I should settle for less or tolerate discrimination and inequality because I’m disabled.
I remember when I graduated from university a neighbour asked when was I getting a job at the local supermarket (I presume because that was the only place they’d seen disabled people employed). I don’t know whether I should just be grateful that they thought I could work or outraged that their expectations of me were so limited. There is nothing wrong with not working or working in a supermarket but there is something wrong with making assumptions about someone’s life choices without having a conversation with them.
I feel that as a disabled woman the expectation to settle is magnified because I am expected to settle as a woman as well as a disabled person. Traditionally society has framedÂ both women and disabled people as passive, this means that disabled women are often seen as the epitome of passive. Although we are rapidly challenging this on both grounds, I often get the feeling that I’m expected to be a bystander in life and not an actor and the barriers I experience accessing society are born out of this. For example I speak at conferences quite often and it is not unusual for me to have to speak from the conference floor or be lifted on to the stage. Although people normally apologise profusely, it leaves me feeling like I don’t belong there or that I should remember my place.
Frequently there is expectation that I should be grateful to settle and it’s not unknown for people get angry or put out when disabled people ask for more wheelchair spaces on buses are a great example. It’s almost like you can be here as long as it doesn’t affect me.
This leads me to wonder if this expected gratitude is driven by the unconscious belief that I and other disabled people have been allowed/tolerated in the mainstream party and we should fit in or shut up and accept whatever access we’ve been given. However it often leaves me feeling frustrated like I’m at a concert where I’ve discover most of the audience have access all areas passes and I’ve only been allowed through the door.
I attend a lot of events and conferences and often people go to great lengths to explain to me the access adjustments, whether they relate to my needs or not. While I am grateful for the thought I often feel conference organisers expect me to praise for doing the minimum. I celebrate and praise the conferences and events that embed access features without fanfare and share the information on available adjustments with everyone rather than treating accessible features as a secret that you have to look the part to access.Â Sometimes when accessing mainstream events I feel like some kind of pioneering explorer entering the unknown and I feel like I have to over appreciate when attempts at access are made out of fear that the organisers won’t even attempt to include disabled people in future if I don’t.
Even within spaces exploring oppression or rights on grounds other than disability I often feel I’m expected settle for partial participation because I can access most of something or the bits organisers see as important. This often leaves me compromising my safety and/or dignity to access social aspects of events because they tend to be the bits seen as add ons and optional extras. Unfortunately I see the social aspects of life as valuable as the professional because they are often the spaces I can show I’m human and make connections with people beyond professional curiosity.
For a long time I would make compromises without articulating what I was sacrificing to be included because I didn’t want to be seen as âthatâ person the party pooper, the moaning disabled person or the difficult one. However I realised recently that by hiding what being in inaccessible spaces costs me I was doing a disservice to other disabled people and future me who may not be able to make the compromises I currently can.
The pesky thing about exclusion is it is rarely visible, although this is not unique to disability.Â Â If someone is not there how do you know whether they are not there by choice or because they are experiencing barriers getting in the space. The exclusion of many oppressed groups is difficult to challenge because if someone is excluded how do they access you or vice versa to work through and remove the barriers.
I get the feeling that those with hidden impairments and access needs like child care have to compromise even more often thanÂ other groups because having visible needs initiates the conversation for you whereas those whose needs are less visible have the additional burden of deciding whether disclosure is worth it. When I am running events I try and create spaces where everyone is allowed to have and articulate needs. I do this by asking everyone what do you need to feel included and able to participate.
I currently have the privilege to chose how and when I compromise my safety, wellbeing and dignity to take part. What this means is in my work life particularly when accessing non disability spaces I now strangely settle more. Why? because even in the most conscious of spaces we are yet to get to the point where disabled people’s absence from spaces is consistently worthy of comment. If I’m in the room then I can raise it. People can see and feel the effort and energy I spend just getting into the room and maybe next time the next person won’t have to compromise so much.
In my private and social life I chose to compriseÂ my needs when the benefits of being present outweighs the compromises I need to make to be there. As I’ve got older and have been able to see the consequences of settling, my willingness to settle and compromise my needs has decreased. while this unwillingness to compromise my needs has lost me friends and caused me to miss things I generally have a better time now than I had when I settled for partial participation. What’s interesting though is people generally seem to expect me to settle more in my personal lifeÂ than elsewhere and I can’t work out if it’s because I’m disabled a woman or both. Although I suspect the expectation to compromise comes from the fact that in personal spaces decisions and actions are more traceable to individuals.
Although I compromise less in personal spaces I hide the personal impact of barriers more because I know that many of the barriers I experience are out of anyone’s control. My exception to this is attitudinal barriers because I can’t hide them and they cost me a lot. For example it is often assumed that the people that I hangout with are not my friends through choice but out of charity, kindness or cash. I would like to hope that my friends are there because they enjoy my company if not being me hopefully I’ve scared off anyone there for any other reason!Â However it has taken a long time to come to terms with the fact people might actually want to be my friend even with all of additional considerations that come with that.
For relationships once people get over the shock as a disabled woman I might want one. Most strangers assume I should/can only date a disabled person or worse I should jump at any non disabled person who shows me the slightest bit of interest regardless of how unsuitable they might be. Navigating this minefield is still something I’m not very good at.
Everything I do in life I do because we only have one life and I do not want regret not living the life I want because of others expectations. Yes there are still barriers and I have to settle like everyone does but I refuse to settle just because it is expected of me as a disabled woman. I hope that by being open about the decisions I make to have control over my life that I can support others to live their lives as they wish.
Weirdly I think settling is fine if you can live with what you get as a result but no one should feel obliged to.
Zara Todd is a Sisters of Frida’s director.
Exciting new project on skills development for Sisters of Frida!
New peer led skills development course for disabled women
(Start dateÂ 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 womenâs 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Sarah Rennie: Women’s Day Off?
On Saturday, at Women of the World festival, I found myself on the panel for the planning meeting of âWomenâs Day Offâ.Â This is being organised by the Womenâs Equality Party for 2017 toÂ 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 weâre 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 âvirtualâ participation channels for those that cannot participate physically. This leads me to support needs. How will I Â participate if my support system breaks down for the day because my PA team have jumped on a coach to London and Iâm lying in bed bursting for the loo?
Letâs face it, my PAs wonât leave me. So they wonât take the ‘day offâ. 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 wonât be. Perhaps our solution will be that I inform my local authority that I have a credible belief my PAs will âstrikeâ 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 WEPâs 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 âburden of careâ. Firstly, I receive support, not care. Letâs 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 âburden of careâ 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 RennieÂ is a director of the Wisdom Factory CIC, a social enterprise in Birmingham. As a former solicitor, her day-to-day work isÂ research and governance advice. However, Sarah deliversÂ disability equality training nationwide andÂ acts as a consultant for select clients on internal equality working groups. She is also vice-Chair of the cityâs Access Committee. She is also on the Sisters of Frida Steering Group.
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
Sisters of Frida AGM 25th March 2017 1-3.30 pm
Please do come to our AGM at Blackfriars SettlementÂ
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 email@example.com
And sign up at the eventbrite.
Looking forward to seeing you all!
Blogs/websites from Sisters of Frida
Here we are featuring some of the blogs/websites by Sisters of Frida
Hello! Iâm Michelle Daley and Iâm 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 1950âs. 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.
Hereâs where you can find out more about my career background.
Why follow me?
Through endless surfingÂ it is clearÂ 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 toÂ share your own experiences.
I am currentlyÂ a Research FellowÂ inÂ the School of Education at the University of Sheffield.Â Prior to this post, IÂ became the inaugural Ethel Louise Armstrong Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
IâmÂ a disabled feminist and public sociologist who believes in the power and politics ofÂ co-production and arts methodologies. To me,Â researchÂ isÂ 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.Â Please feel free to haveÂ a look around, and donât hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.
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 UKÂ Equal LivesÂ .
I am a trustee of a childrenâs literature charityÂ outside in worldÂ and a board member ofÂ ENILÂ and chair of itâs youth network.
I am also a director ofÂ Sisters of Frida, a disabledÂ womenâs collective.
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 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. Iâm also embarking on a new project.. so read this place!
Please read my resumĂ©s for more details of my work.
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.
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