Category Archives: Sisters of Frida

Disability is not our only identity: An interview with Becky Olaniyi

Disability is not our only identity: An interview with Becky Olaniyi
Becky Olaniyi

Becky Olaniyi

In anticipation of this year’s Feminism In London conference (October 24-25), Alicen Grey talks with Becky Olaniyi about disability, feminism, and the challenges and lessons of being an activist at the intersection of identities.

See the rest of the interview at the Feminist Curent.

Becky is the youngest member of our steering group but she’s a brilliant speaker. Its not too late to get tickets for the workshop. And if you have difficulties paying, just let them know.

Feminism in London: Disabled Women’s panel, London 25th October

Feminism in London: Disabled Women’s panel, London 25th October

flyerFeminism in London panel on 25th Oct sunday 12.30 Hilton Metropole London

Multiple Identities: ordinary lives: The challenges of being disabled and feminist

Disabled women’s rights are human rights! Disability can be physical, mental, neurological, hidden or visible. This panel will look at activism through the prism of disability and feminism and seek to explore further the intersection and challenges of being between the two and the capacity of the two movements to work for change.

Kirsten Hearn (Chair)
Becky Olaniyi (Sisters of Frida)
Rebecca Bunce (ICChange)
Asha Hans ( Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre. &. Women with Disabilities India by video link)
Frances Ryan (Guardian journalist)
Nidhi Goyal (CREA: disability and sexuality by video link)

Tickets available now

The conference address: Hilton Metropole conference suite at the Hilton Metropole Hotel, 225 Edgware Road, London W2 1JU. It is very close to Edgware Road tube station. It’s fully accessible.
it is on Sunday 25th at 12:30-2pm, except for speakers – you need to buy a ticket.

Sisters of Frida: Disability & Sex/uality Workshop, Part 1

Sisters of Frida: Disability & Sex/uality Workshop, Part 1

Disability & Sex/uality

Workshop, Part 1  

Sisters of Frida invites you to the first Disability and Sex/uality workshop on 19 September 2015 at Unity Church Hall, 1-5pm. This workshop is for self-identified disabled women who want to create a space to talk about disability, sex and sexuality.

The workshop

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 as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.

This workshop is the first meeting of the project Disability and Sex/uality we are developing. In this workshop we will explore the different themes around sex and sexuality that arise from our experiences. We will also look at what we want to explore more and what work needs to happen to develop this project.

The project

The idea for this project arose from a screening of the documentary AccSex, which showed how a group of disabled women in India experience their sexuality. This project is part of Sisters of Frida. We are setting up this project out of a need to create a space where we can safely discuss our sexuality in a supportive and empowering environment.


The topics we will discuss can be sensitive, for this reason, please contact us directly to register and discuss participation as this will be a closed meeting: Note that places are limited, please get in touch as soon as possible. Deadline for registration is 6 September.

Accessibility and needs

The venue is wheelchair accessible. There is an accessible toilet, but without a hoist. There is a small room that people can use for quiet-time. Please get in touch as soon as possible if you need BSL, transcription or if you have other access needs. If you have any concerns or queries about the nature of what might be discussed in the workshop and how it could relate to your experiences, please get in touch. This is a peer-support group, we cannot offer professional support.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Date: 19 September 2015

Time: 1pm – 5pm

Where: New Unity Unitarians

Address: 277A Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2TZ

Deadline for registration: 6 September 2015

Accessibility: Please get in touch to discuss your needs

At Sparks London

At Sparks London
the spark banner

the spark banner

The Spark is a completely free festival of ideas, discussion, art, performance and more looking at how we can bring about positive change here in the UK and around the world 20 – 26 July 2015.

Ciara Doyle leading the workshop

Ciara Doyle leading the workshop

Sisters of Frida were invited again after last year’s participation. Some of us participated at Sparks and lead workshops.

Ciara and Dyi had a workshop: The ability in disability: questioning the idea of being healthy and well-being

This workshop asks what is ‘normal’? It explores ideas around ‘ability in disability’, ‘normal health’ or ‘healthy’. It encourages a curiosity about understanding ableism as a system that affects everyone by dictating what is ‘normal’ around ability, including ideas and practices around ‘health’ and ‘well-being’.

Facilitated by:

–Ciara identifies as an activist, an academic, queer, disabled.

–Dyi has been an activist in Amsterdam around issues of gender, race, reproductive rights, and age/generation and now, in London, tries to catch up on issues of disability and sex/uality while fluctuatingly ill and doing a PhD

Dyi was actually not well on the day and Ciara did it on her own with a great interactive discussion on.

The workshop after that was Equality and being inclusive and accessible

Everyone says they are aiming for equality however they do not always factor in being inclusive and accessible. Physical, hidden and logistical barriers can very often prevent people from being properly involved. Although nearly always unintentional, this exclusion has a negative impact on the campaign and access isnt always easy to add on later.

Non disabled people do not always understand what barriers disabled people face in going about day to day activities – eg. having steps to a physical meeting place mean wheelchair users are excluded, having information only available on pdfs mean that blind people who use text reader to access electronic information are left out and if you have meetings that start very early in the morning might mean that people who need personal assistance to get ready or those who have chronic issues might find it logistically challenging to make it to your meeting.

facilitated by Eleanor Lisney, an access adviser who is also a wheelchair user.

At the Four Fridas!

At the Four Fridas!

Annabel and Eleanor were at the Sisters of Frida’s stall at the Four Fridas, ( excerpt from website below) part of the Greenwich and Docklands Festival.

Annabel and Eleanor

Annabel and Eleanor

The Four Fridas will be a spectacular, outdoor theatre production celebrating the life and work of the legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Audiences will be immersed in a visually thrilling experience, integrating elements of ritual, music, narration, contemporary dance and aerial choreography, played out against stunning video projections in the sky.

Taking inspiration from Frida Kahlo’s lifelong empathy with indigenous Mexico, The Four Fridas will feature a rare opportunity to see the breathtaking ritual flight of the Voladores. The production brings together an exciting creative team led by GDIF’s Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings, including a specially commissioned appearance by Shechter Junior, a new young ensemble of talented dancers from Hofesh Shechter Company, alongside an innovative collaboration between leading UK aerial dance company Wired Aerial Theatre and BAFTA Award winning film maker Tal Rosner, together with film animation by artist Rachel Gadsden. The production is designed by Georgia Lowe with an original script by award winning writer Jay Griffiths, music by BAFTA Award winner Dan Jones and lighting by Olivier Award winning Natasha Chivers

We asked if we could have a stall to give information on Sisters of Frida. The crew there kindly gave us a space at the front of stage and we shared between the cocktail van and the stand which sold Mexican sweets. We had lots of interest and even some friends visiting! We had quite a few enquiries and interest in our badges and postcards.

postcards write to if you would like badges or cards

postcards write to if you would like badges or cards


badge in two sizes

At 4fridas with Sophie Partridge and friend, Taharah

At Four Fridas with Sophie Partridge and friend, Taharah

Here are some photos from the spectacle!

Four Fridas

Four Fridas spectacle  

Four Fridas

Four Fridas


Screening AccSex London : sexuality and disability & next steps

Screening AccSex London : sexuality and disability & next steps

Report written by Lani Parker with additions from Eleanor Lisney

People were pleased with the turnout and it was a good opportunity to network and talk to each other.
The film generally had good feedback. There was discussion on many topics, including who the film was
aimed at, the editorial devices which were used (such as changing the subtitles in order to give a “feeling
of exclusion”), and the Indian context. It was felt that it was a good film to get discussion going. We thanked Shweta Ghosh with a little momento (Happy Potter mug) from London.

Next steps

– Michelle and Charlotte had ideas for showing the film in different places and will get in touch with
Shweta to organise purchase of film and further screenings.
–  Shweta said that she will write a booklet to go with the film so that issues which have been commonly brought up at the screenings can be discussed and contextualised.

After the film we had a presentation from Stay Safe East (Ruth Bashall and Lucia Bellini) about their work with disabled women, particularly around domestic violence (their remit is slightly bigger than this). There was discussion on the specialist nature of the work running women’s support groups and the need for further groups like this.

Ruth would like to see the work done around the Serious Crime Bill and domestic violence taken forward to lobby the CPS around their guidance for the bill and they (as Stay Safe East) will be meeting with Women’s Aid shortly. Eleanor and others expressed a wish for Sisters of Frida to be involved with this work.

Eleanor, Ruth and Lucia to take forward work with CPS and Women’s Aid on the issue and the Bill specifically.

There was a discussion about a forum or space for disabled women to talk about sex, sexuality and intimacy. This is a big topic and there are many issues, including lack of information, intersections of identity and oppressions, types of impairments, and PAs’ involvement in relationships. Laki said that there is a need for a physical drop-in as well as information online and perhaps an online forum discussing the issues.

There are many things to consider with an online forum. Ruth said that GAD have a forum but it is by invitation. Seems like a sensible idea to explore along with online safety issues in the future if we were to take forward this idea. The idea would be to have a website and resources, perhaps a forum and an informal drop-in.

–  Laki and Dyi to set up meeting for Sisters of Frida to start to discuss these issues amongst ourselves and to look at collating resources.

–  Ruth to send resources she already has access to.

We discussed about funding and future strategy and future steps.

Lucia Bellini’s speech for Million Women Rise 2015 at Trafalgar Square

Lucia Bellini’s speech for Million Women Rise 2015 at Trafalgar Square


Sisters of Frida Steering group member, Lucia, spoke for disabled women against domestic violence and violence against women at Million Women Rise at Trafalgar Square. Lucia works to tackle violence and abuse against disabled and Deaf people.

Lucia and Ruth Bashall from StaySafe East

Lucia and Ruth

Eleanor Lisney: ‘when gender, race and disability collide’

Eleanor Lisney: ‘when gender, race and disability collide’

This was the speech by Eleanor at the WOW Festival on the Disability and Feminism panel.

Eleanor Lisney

Eleanor Lisney

The title of this session is ‘resurgence of mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women and discuss what happens when gender, race and disability collide’ – I am going to start with saying that I am not sure we always allow ourselves to be ignored.

Sisters of Frida was started when we realised that there was a noticeable absence of the voices of disabled women. One of the first things we did was to join the UK CEDAW work goup and we went to Geneva so that we have a visible presence to challenge the government on their reforms with other women’s groups such as Southall Black Sisters. We were mostly self funded but we saw that it is essential that disabled women are represented in processes like CEDAW reporting as too often our experience as disabled women is invisible, this is an opportunity to change this and show how the cuts and legal changes are affecting us. When it came to the turn of the shadow report for the CRPD, we realised we were the people with some experience as having been through the CEDAW shadow report process. And by the way the United Kingdom has become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by the United Nations committee responsible for oversight of disability rights into charges of “grave or systemic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

However in the discourse of feminism, disabled women are seldom included, it is true but even so, we are getting invited – we are here at WOW:) but seriously, disabled people are often seen as a ‘burden’ on the feminist from before birth to the older parent often portrayed as with dementia. The decision of aborting a disabled child is seen to be totally understandable, disabled people needs caring for – usually by low paid or unpaid carers where women sacrifice themselves as carers. Disabled women are also seen to be undateable. They are not deemed to be fit to be mothers, they worry about their children being taken into care, or not given custody of their children if there is a marital breakup with a non disabled partner.

There was rejoicing of the series of amendments to the Serious Crime Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, and is expected to be on the statute books this year where under the terms of the Bill a person convicted of coercive control could face up to 14-years in prison and there will be no statutory time limit for the offences, meaning abuse dating back years can be taken into account. Good news for feminists but not so much of a cry when it was found that disabled women would be exempted. Partners of disabled women could avoid domestic abuse prosecution even after ‘coercive control’ is criminalised, the government added an amendment to the proposed law which creates a defence against charges of coercive control by people who take care of disabled partners. If they can convincingly argue that the actions they took were both in the best interests of their partners and “in all the circumstances reasonable”, they will not be prosecuted. There was a consultation but no disabled women / people were asked.

I am sometimes asked: is there a gendered difference in disability campaigning, surely we re all in it together. The division does not help, they say, and even disabled women tell me that. We should look for commonalities. I am not able to respond to that coherently. I think I m more able to respond when it has to do with social justice and the question of race but maybe because nobody has said to me let’s look for commonalities white people and black people both suffer from social justice, why insist on the differences. Certainly no black person.

I would say because there are  differences and we need to speak for disabled sisters because if we don’t who will? Last year I was fortunate enough to speak in the NAWO panel at the Global Summit to end violence against women in conflict – addressing gender equality as the root of all gender-based violence. I am reminded that Women are raped, tortured and killed or left disabled because of their gender. If they survive many can’t go back into society because of the stigma of having been raped, on top of being disabled. There is a gender difference.

As an East Asian disabled woman I can feel the conflict and am pulled in different directions by the different identities. When I m in a disability environment, which is still very white dominated, I ask for black representation, with people of colour, I ask for access and inclusion for disabled people, with feminists, I ask for the same.

– Eleanor Lisney

Michelle Daley: Mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women

Michelle Daley: Mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women

This is Michelle Daley’s speech at Disability and Feminism at the WOW Festival

Michelle Daley

Michelle Daley

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this years WOW event.
A lot has changed over the years for women. We now see a few women in leadership roles. And, yes a few women. But this is not equality! Now ask yourself these questions:
1. How many of these women in leadership positions are white disabled women?
2. How many of these women in leadership positions are black disabled women?**
We would struggle to answer the second question. I searched the internet and it did not generate the desired result. I did find information by black disabled women sharing their own personal stories. I can only think that this is their way to get attention out there about black disabled women’s experiences.
Through my engagement with disabled women they have told me that as a black disabled woman the way in which they interact with society is different to a white disabled woman and that their experiences are different. To demonstrate this point I will share an example from a speech I delivered in Scotland last year titled: Lived experience as a BME disabled person. I wrote “when an assessor presents their client’s case to their manager requesting support for extra time above the agreed hours for a Black Disabled Woman to maintain her hair and skin care this is likely to be rejected because of the Managers lack of understanding about Afro textured hair and skin sensitivity and the experience of dryness.”
Many disabled women are having to fight a lonely battle with no one to advocate their experiences and the situation is made worse if you are a black disabled woman.
Really, the situation should not be like this for our disabled women. I say this because, the purpose of the feminist movement is to remove barriers. But, this is not the view of some disabled women. They are of the view that mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women – why?
– There is a lack of understanding about disabled women’s rights
– There is a lack of understanding about black disabled women’s experiences

By excluding the voices of all disabled women results in:
– Agendas failing to address disability issues
– Makes the feminist movement weaker
– Does not help to address discriminatory practices
– Does not help to address the abuse and violence experienced by many of the silent voices

I want to take you back to the opening question to show how through the lack of involvement of disabled women results in poor quality of services and in the worst cases exclusion from society. The feminist movement cannot continue to ignore some women’s voices. Every attempt must be made to address the barriers and bridge the gaps between theory and reality for all women and not just the few.

Thank you!

** I am describing black women as people from African, Caribbean and some Asian descent.

Becky Olaniyi: 18 Years In A Wheelchair

Becky Olaniyi: 18 Years In A Wheelchair

Reblogged from Snatched XO with thanks!

Becky is a Sisters of Frida’s Steering Group member

18 Years In A Wheelchair

cartoon-right-wordsAfter 18 years in a wheelchair, I know what to expect when I’m leaving the house.

I was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain in childbirth. It left me with an inability to walk and a low tolerance for stupidity. This is put to the test as soon as I leave my house. People stare at me like a hanging head in a butcher’s window (and then smile. Like I’m some sort of ‘cute’ hanging head.) People ask me if my arms hurt. But the best of them all is when people offer help and then say ‘I’ve done a good deed today’.

I know what you’re thinking.

‘Maybe they think you’re deaf’. That would surely be the only explanation for such stupid behaviour.

You’re wrong. They don’t. This is a common occurrence. And it’s only the tip of the fully accessible disability iceberg.

Imagine if someone came and picked you up and carried you away. Naturally, you’d be incredibly alarmed. So why do I have to smile and nod and politely decline a potential kidnapping every day? I’m ‘rude’ if I refuse the offer of being treated like cargo by a complete stranger, but I’d much rather be rude than dead. And then there’s those people who don’t help at all. I could be sliding backwards down a ramp into a pit of hell and they would focus all of their attention on a passing cloud to avoid – God forbid – eye contact, let alone actually trying to help me. Maybe disability is catching. The awkwardness is palatable when I finally make it onto the bus and have to sit facing all of the people that somehow could not see me when I was wedged between the side of the bus and the edge of the pavement. I can’t decide whether they’re as bad as the people who ask me ‘What is your…er…problem?’ and then pat their legs for emphasis as if I think they’re talking about my glasses.

The bus is truly a disabled person’s paradise. It’s like some sort of government regulated punishment for being disabled, in which you have to battle with a person with a small child for transport. Have you ever seen a showdown between a person with a pram and a person in a wheelchair at a bus stop? Neither have I, because the person with the pram always gets on without a second thought. THAT IS AGAINST THE RULES OF TFL. I don’t say anything, and neither does anyone else. At least I have an excuse. What if they wanted to fight over it? I can’t exactly make a quick escape. As for all the other people, please refer to the ‘don’t help at all’ section above.

I was going out (to the gym, can you imagine) and I got on the bus. The woman who had a pram in the wheelchair space moved it out of the way to make space and I went in and continued minding my business, my default state when wanting to avoid pity talk. Pity talk, for those who don’t know, is what happens when the person sitting facing you in the wheelchair area feels so uncomfortable seeing you alone that they talk to you out of sheer sorrow. Sometimes, they even invite you to their church for a healing seminar. As I get off the bus, the woman moves her pram again to let me out. The man behind her must have assumed she was getting off, and the woman said ‘I’m not getting off, just moving to let the wheelchair off’. I wasn’t aware that I had gone out dressed as an empty chair, but you never know.

People interpret me as either being constantly lost, or as having a learning disability. I hear the words ‘Are you okay? Are you lost? Do you need help?’ at least thrice a day if I leave my house. The answer is always no, as these people seem to only appear when I’m perfectly fine, and disappear as soon as I’m about to push myself uphill. It gets tiresome after nearly 2 decades. A woman came up to me and screamed ‘I SAW YOU LOOKING AT THE MENU EARLIER, DID YOU GET SOMETHING TO EAT?’ Turns out she had been watching me in the restaurant and didn’t say anything, kind of like an inept guardian angel. I still don’t know why she shouted. I’m physically impaired, not hearing impaired. But I’ve learned that most people seem to be tact impaired.

Despite the comical tone of this article, being patronised, pitied, dehumanised and made fun of every day is horrible. Particularly for a young person struggling to find their own identity and be acknowledged as an equal by their peers. This is the reality of life for many disabled people, and it shouldn’t be this way. Next time you come into contact with a disabled person, treat them with respect and consideration. Don’t hound them with your questions comments and concerns, and try not to stare so openly.