Sister Stories: Sisters of Frida submission call-out
Weâre excited to announce a call-out for the new Sisters of Frida blog series, and we need your help! This ongoing blog project is for you and will be shaped by you, the Sisters of Frida community. It will be an online space to share your experiences, stories and creativity, and help us to create a digital sisterhood and archive of disabled womenâs voices.
We want to showcase work by writers and artists living with chronic illness, mental illness, and disability. Your work doesnât need to be about those experiences exclusively, but we welcome and encourage submissions along those lines.
Weâre looking for contributions of things that inspire you, this can include non-fiction, fiction, poems, illustrations, photographs, essays, reviews, etc.
Here are some quotes we like:
âAt the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.â – Frida Kahlo
âCaring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.â – Audre Lorde
âHard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.â – Unknown
If youâd like to contribute:
Send all submissions with the subject SISTER STORIES: *TITLE OF PIECE* to [email protected]
Please include a short third-person bio and your pronouns, but if youâd like to remain anonymous, thatâs fine! Just let us know. If you also want to include a brief background about the piece, please feel free to do so.
Attach submissions to your email in an accessible format.
Non-fiction, essays, reviews should be no longer than 1,000 words.
Poetry/Artwork – Please submit no more than 5 individual pieces.
Languages: We welcome submissions in any language but please provide a translation if possible.
The blog will be updated monthly, so expect a calendarâs worth of stories! The frequency may increase depending on the number of submissions.
If you have an idea but need a bit of direction, let us know! We can work through it together, and help to guide whatever it is youâre creating. Just email [email protected]
* Sisters of Frida is an inclusive safe space for all self-identifying and non-binary disabled women. We do not tolerate sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia or other forms of discrimination based on sexuality, age, gender expression, religion, education or socio-economic status.
Jennifer Brough is the curator of this set of stories/blog.
Jennifer is a writer and editor who lives with fibromyalgia and endometriosis. She is involved in projects at the Feminist Library and seeks to amplify the voices and experiences of self-identifying women. She is learning Spanish and dreaming of visiting Frida’s house in Mexico, so is very happy to be part of the Sisters of Frida community.
First photos and some videos from the celebratory event on 4th May
Our celebratory event was a great success – thank you very much for those who did make it and thank you too for those who sent messages / videos because they couldn’t make it.
On Oct 26 2017, you met one of our founders, Eleanor Lisney, at Bringing Womenâs Voices into the Heart of Government , Women Resource Centre, House of Common. She mentioned our concerns about the defence to controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship under s.76 Serious Crime Act 2015. You asked her if we would put this in writing to you.
You will be familiar with the offence. We welcome its introduction for all victims of abuse but it is specifically important to disabled women because:
Disabled women are twice asÂ likely to experience domestic violence asÂ non-disabled women;
Disabled women are disproportionately more likely to be trapped in emotionally abusive relationships and/or households where their âcarersâ receive financial benefits as a result of the victimâs disability; and
[ethnicity/cultural risk element?]
Content of s.76(8)
In light of the high risks for disabled women, we are therefore very concerned that s.76(8) states that it is a defence to show that:
(a) [the accused] believed that he or she was acting in [the victimâs] best interests, and
(b) the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.
We understand that the defence was intended to protect carers. Notwithstanding disabled women have a heightened need for the protection of s.76, we pose the follow questions:
Once the case for âabuseâ has been made out, why is a defence necessary?
S.76(8)(b) is an objective test of reasonableness, but s.76(8)(a) is subjective and wholly irrelevant. Does the Government believe that abuse is permissible if the perpetrator believed it was acceptable?
Application of s.76(8)
Turning to the application of this defence, what guidance has been provided to judges? There is a serious risk that cultural stereotypes may wrongly influence the judiciary eg that disabled people need âcareâ, that disabled people need guidance from others, that a carer is a âgood, kind and selfless personâ. In her report the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, noted that the justice system is âwidely perceived to be biased in favour of menâ and that disabled women in particular may be subjected to stereotypes that infantilise them.
Consultation on s.76(8)
Our fourth question is to what extent were disabled women consulted on s.76 and its defence?
You will be aware that last Summer, the UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published itsÂ concluding observations1Â following its first review of the UK governmentâs compliance with the Convention. The Committee frequently noted that disabled women and girlsâ rights âhave not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agendaâ. We fear that s.76(8) demonstrates this.
Once you have had a chance to consider the issues, we should be grateful for a response to our questions and to hear whether you intend to take further action.
The Government has to tell the United Nations about womenâs rights in the UK.
We are collecting experiences from women across England to give to the United Nations. They will use these when they question the UK Government.
We want to be sure that disabled women are included. This report will reinforced what DDPOs wrote to the UNCPRD committee in last yearâs examination in Geneva. But we will focus more on disabled women and girlsâ issues.
Please tell us:
What the problems are, in your own words â we are interested in your personal experiences
Links to any evidence (research reports if you have them)
what the government has/has not done since the last time it reported in 2013, and
your recommendations for what needs to be done.
NB we are reporting on the period from 2013 to date.
We can only give a very short report to the United Nations – only 6,600 words!
We are interested in any information you can give us. Some of the areas that the UN will look at include:
Trafficking and ProstitutionÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Healthcare â how the NHS supports accessibility of healthcare for disabled women
Political and Public Life â whether disabled women are properly represented
Economic and Social Benefits Â – social security payments, universal credit, PIP etc
Rural Women â the special needs of women outside towns and cities including public transport, slow wifi speeds and access to disability services
Nationality Â – special needs of disabled migrant women
Equality Before the Law â are disabled women equal?
Education â access to schools, colleges and university for disabled women and girls
Marriage and Family Life â disabled womenâs rights to a family life
Employment â access to good quality work, and support to work (Access to Work)
Violence Against Women and Girls – particular problems for disabled women, for example, domestic violence, or such violence against disabled women
Your evidence will be published unless you tell us otherwise.
Let us know if you want:
â EITHER your evidence to be completely confidential, OR
â to be shared with the Equality and Human Rights Commission only.
The deadline for evidence and information is 28 February 2018. Send your evidence to: [email protected]
The Kolibri or Hummingbird is a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible. For the native Americans, the bird is a symbol of rebirth, and of resurrection. It brings special messages for us, in its capacity of going in any direction; the only creature that can stop while traveling at full speed and the only bird that can fly backwards as well as forwards, up and down.
Frida had a special connection with this bird. She painted her eyebrows in the arc of the wings of the hummingbird, perhaps identifying herself with the extraordinary life skills of this colourful, tiny and vulnerable bird with the heart of an eagle. The logo is set in a stamp which fits the idea of the kolibriÂ being a messengerâŚÂ
Why Sisters of Frida?
We took a long time deliberating on a name. We are disabled women but that is not our only identity â we are also embracing the whole package of being women and disabled. And we believe strongly in the social model of disability. We want to celebrate the difference of being of different ethnic origins, different cultures and nationalities, of different sexual orientation, of being mums, having partners and being single women. We are creative and our creativeness is born from our identities â of the very pain of being impaired and disabled at times. But we are not victims.
Hence we found a role model in Frida Kahlo. She is not one immediately associated with disability and yet her art was filled with images of the crippled body. She was also an activist and she wanted a life full of love, of relationships. In her art we also glimpse the dark landscape of her mental health in the aftermath of still births and in her stormy relationship with Diego Riveria.
We can strive to live our lives as full as she did
Sisters of Frida at Brussels ENIL Freedom Drive
Some Sisters of Frida went to ENIL 2017 Freedom Drive,Â which brought together 300 Independent Living activists from 19 countries in Brussels.
Zara Todd, Lani Parker, Michelle Daley and Eleanor Lisney, and Rachel O’Brien (photo by Mladen Spremo)
It brought an an end to a week of promoting independent living, peer support, protest and celebration of disability rights. The Freedom Drive has brought together around 300 independent living activists from 19 countries, from as far East as Albania, to Norway in the North.
Among the main Freedom Drive demands were the end to institutionalisation of disabled people across Europe, access to personal assistance in all countries, full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the end to cuts to support services and benefits for disabled people.
Lani Parker and Michelle Daley said:
We also met some MEPs,Â Anthea McIntyre MEP,Â Keith Taylor MEP,Â Molly Scott-Cato MEP,Â Wajid Khan MEP, andÂ Daniel Dalton MEP, among others to ask them questions on independent living, accessibility, inclusive education, disability rights after Brexit, freedom of labour as part of the EU among other issues.
with Wajid Khan MEP (Labour), Rebecca Farren, Lani Parker, Tara Flood and Michelle Daley (photo by Katai)
Tweet from Molly Scott Cato MEP with Michelle Daley, (Green Party) Keith Taylor MEP, Molly Scott Cato MEP, Tara Flood and Lani Parker
The night before the march we met up with other British attendees for dinner, including Sarah Rennie (Sisters of Frida, Steering Group member) , who had to leave before the march.
dinner with other British attendees of Freedom Drive (photo by Debbie)
dinner with other British attendees of Freedom Drive (2nd table) (photo by Debbie)
We were outside the European Parliament the next day to join the other ENIL Freedom marchers on the streets of Brussels.
Michelle Daley leading some of the way. (photo by Katai)
Thank you all for all who came with us. Thank you for ENIL to organising this and we wish Zara Todd, as incoming director, the best for the future.
Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us
The UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published its concluding observations following its first review of the UK governmentâs compliance with the Convention. We contributed to the report and went to Geneva, as volunteers, to ensure that violations of disabled womenâs rights were given attention. The Committee highlighted many areas of concerns which explicitly or indirectly affect disabled women, but weâve highlighted three key themes below.
1) Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us
We share the Committeeâs concern that disabled women and girlsâ rights âhave not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agendaâ and support its specific recommendation to âadopt inclusive and targeted measures, including disaggregated dataâ to prevent the multiple and intersectional discrimination we face.
Mainstreaming our rights, requires our involvement. We therefore also welcome the Committeeâs recommendation to allocate âfinancial resources to support organisations representing [disabled women]â and develop mechanisms to ensure our involvement in planning and implementing law which affects our lives. For example, we were not consulted on the drafting of the coercive abuse offence in the Serious Crime Act. If we had, we would have been able to show how the âbest interestsâ defence for carers dangerously undermines the rights and safety of disabled women and people with learning disabilities.
Strategies need to be measured, financed and monitored. We therefore welcome the Committeeâs recommendation for mechanisms to support our involvement in the design of strategies to implement the Convention through âmeasurable, financed and monitored strategic plans of actionâ. Measurability requires the collection of disaggregated data and this has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.
2) Multiple and Intersectional Discrimination
Disabled women experience sexism and dis/ableism in our everyday lives, along with many other forms of oppression (eg. based on age, sexual orientation, economic status and migrant status). Hereâs an example to illustrate. A visually impaired woman cannot access information on an NHS website due to inaccessibility. This is disability discrimination, but is gender-neutral. However, lack of access to family planning services is clearly gender and disability discrimination. If she is actually a teenage girl living in a remote indigenous community, clearly intersections of multiple aspects of her identity operate to exacerbate the disadvantages she faces.
This is why the Convention specifically addresses the rights of disabled women in Article 6. It requires the Government to recognize that disabled women and girls face multiple discrimination. Itâs therefore crucial that the Government implement the Committeeâs recommendation to explicitly incorporate protection from âmultiple and intersectional discriminationâ in national legislation. Whether itâs routine GP appointments, cervical testing or maternity care, disabled women constantly struggle to access medical services, so we strongly support the Committeeâs recommendation to develop âtargeted measurable and financedâ strategies to eliminate barriers in access to health care and services and to measure their progress.â
3) Access to Justice
Our rights are worthless if they are unenforceable or ignored. The barriers with the justice system are procedural, financial and accessibility-related and stop us from bringing claims to enforce our civil rights, count against us in proceedings (eg divorce and family matters) and prevent us from reporting criminal abuse against us.
We therefore strongly support the Committeeâs recommendations:
to develop training for the judiciary and law enforcement personnel. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has already noted concerns about âwomen being deemed unfit mothers for having âfailed to protectâ their children from an abusive parentâ. Ignorant, counterproductive and damaging comments and actions by judges and police must end.
to provide âfree or affordable legal aidâ for disabled people in all areas of law. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has specifically noted concern about the evidential requirements to apply for legal aid and the consequences for family law problems.
The many other areas of concern noted by the Committee can be read here
We were disappointed by the lack of media attention given to the 17-page catalogue of shame but the disabled community, including the DPOs, continue to valiantly highlight the UNâs findings.
Whilst we welcome the Committeeâs recommendation for the UK Government to produce annual reports on its progress, we fear it will be another exercise of denial and lack data, evidence or understanding of intersectional discrimination.
We, Sisters of Frida, are preparing for CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and working with other womenâs organisations on this. In the meantime, we are joining theENIL Freedom March in Brussels and will raise it with our MEPs as to how they will be responding to protecting disabled women on VAWG as the Istanbul Convention is being ratified by the UK government.
“The last time Sisters of Frida went with the UK CEDAW Working Group to Geneva, we noted in our oral statement that women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK are facing threats to their rights but this does not have to be the case if government policies are created in partnership with womenâs NGOs and include a gendered perspective. This will ensure that there is not a long-term legacy of discrimination against women, and will also impact on the future economy.
In 2017, Sisters of Frida note that disabled women are acknowledged as still facing the same level of discrimination in the UNCRPD Concluding Observations. We call upon the UK government to honour its commitment to womenâs rights and work with us to establish a clear and inclusive mechanism in order to bring womenâs voices into the heart of government.â
âWe know that disabled women have been hit particularly badly by austerity policies over the last seven years. Disabled women have lost income through cuts to both specific disability benefits but also to housing benefit, tax credits and benefits for children. Cuts to public services including social care, health, education and transport budgets have all disproportionately affected disabled women.
The Public Sector Equality Duty, contained in the 2010 Equality Act, places a positive obligation on all public authorities to have due regard to the impact of their policies and practices on equality. Despite this the government have failed to publish meaningful assessments of the cumulative impact of austerity on equality.
We call on the government to meet both their obligations under both domestic and international law to ensure that their policies meet the needs of disabled womenâ
“It is known that disabled women are disproportionately subjected to sexual and domestic violence by perpetrators of these crimes, and that disabled women face additional barriers to escaping and staying safe, and even in being believed.
“International human rights treaties require our Government to ensure that disabled women’s needs are specifically considered and addressed when implementing policy on policing and preventing violence. Following the UN CRDP inquiry into the UK’s performance in this area, we need to hear assurances from the UK Government that disabled women’s needs are known and are made part of policy and practice in relation to ending and preventing abuse.”
âLeave no woman behindâ is an important development and human rights goal that is central to achieving gender equality and one to which the UK government claims to be committed. But in the UK this goal remains largely rhetorical as the most vulnerable women – those with disabilities and multiple needs – are rendered marginalised and invisible by increasingly harsh economic and social welfare measures. Disabled womenâs needs and rights are being gravely and systematically violated by the UK government. Why else do we see such an appalling lack of access to emergency shelters, secure housing and welfare rights, education, work, health and counselling facilities for disabled women who are also fleeing domestic violence? If the UK wants to be recognised as a leader in disability and human rights, it must develop laws, policies and strategies that enhance the rights of all women. This means understanding and addressing the overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination such as race, gender and disability that create additional vulnerabilities and barriers for women. Sadly this government is unlikely to turn its rhetoric on achieving a âfairerâ society into reality but we are ready to stand with our disabled sisters to shame the government into action.
âDisabled women who have experienced sexual violence make up a quarter of Rape Crisis service users – which is an indication of how disproportionately disabled women are impacted by sexual violence, often by their own carers. The voice and engagement of specialist organisations run by and for disabled women, like Sisters of Frida and Stay Safe East, is essential to the CEDAW process in raising awareness of sexual violence to the Committee.â
‘Disabled womenÂ face multiple disadvantage in being able to participate as fully as they wish in all aspects of their lives â social, as well as political and economic .Â The CEDAW Committee made recommendations in their concluding observations to their last report that would improve the capacity of women in the UK to access health care and justice but little has been achieved and austerity policies combined with a lack of specific attention to the issues faced by disabled women, make these more not less distant goals.Â Indeed, disabled women â especially those with learning disabilities who are also likely to experience mental ill-health – continue to face the loss of their babies at birth.
We strongly support NAWO members, Sisters of Frida, in their campaign for focused attention by the UK Government on the needs and concerns of disabled women and girls.’
We would be happy to hear from others, individuals and/or organisations, who would like to join us in our campaign for disabled women’s rights in issues mentioned here. Please comment below or write to [email protected], tweet @sisofrida
Note: Stay Safe East is a unique user-led organisation run by disabled people, providing specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled people from diverse communities in East London (currently Waltham Forest and Newham) who are victims/survivors of domestic or sexual violence, hate crime, harassment and other forms of abuse.
A few places left on peer led skills development course
At a Sisters of Frida event
We have a couple of places left for the peer led skills development course for disabled women
We are amazed by the women that have applied to be on the course. Glad that there are a couple of spaces left if anybody else wants to apply.
Please see the link above for information about the project. More information will be given when a place has been confirmed. Please write to [email protected] if you would like to attend or for any questions. Please let us know your access needs too.
The facilitators for these sessions are:
Lani Parker has worked on disability issues in various capacities including taking part in many campaigns, facilitating training, and working within disabled peopleâs organisations in the areas of advice, information and advocacy. She has a particular passion for doing the work of connecting social justice issues.
Lani is the Community and Legal Service coordinator for Enfield Advice Plus Partnership ProjectÂ at Enfield Disability Action. She is involved in a number of disabled people’s groups and has taken part in many sctions She was co facilitator for the Sisters of Frida’s Disability Sexuality workshop last year.
Nim RalphÂ has over 10 yearsâ experience as a trainer and facilitator, with specialisms in equalities and diversity work/anti-oppression and campaigning. They are Lead Trainer at Campaign Bootcamp and have facilitated for a wide range of groups and organisations ranging from the Girl Guides to Transgender Europe. Nim worked for Drake Music for the last 3 years, which focuses on Disability, music and technology.