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Intersectionality and disability at WOW Festival 2017

Main talks programme panel “Intersectionality for Beginners” at Women of the World Festival 2017, in London South Bank. This panel featurered a keynote from Lydia X. Z. Brown and panel of Guppi Bola, Kuchenga Shenje, Emma Dabiri, and Eleanor Lisney (from Sisters of Frida) chaired by Hannah Azieb Poole. Transcripts kindly provided by Lydia)

This was the prepared speech by Eleanor Lisney  for the panel (but not read out)

When I came back to the UK to take up the position of relationship manager at a university, people told me I ticked many brownie points. I learn to realise they meant I had many disadvantages , because I was a woman, of an ethnic minority, and disabled. Some said it must be an advantage in applying for jobs but believe me, it isn’t . This is before I even heard of the term ‘ intersectionality’, the multiple oppression that arise out of having multiple identities,  and understand the impact it had on my life and that of others.

In January, I was invited to speak as a Sister of Frida at a hearing at the European Parliament on domestic violence and disabled people, and I used a personal example when mentioning intersectionality. When I was living in France I went through a divorce process, the court saw me as a non white, disabled woman with a bad grasp of the French language. My ex, a white British man, is an international  civil servant, had many human rights’ lawyers as his friends. I did not even know French divorce laws were different from those in the UK.

I think it was partly from that experience I co founded Sisters of Frida – understanding the complexity of having multiple identities- and also it’s in  Article 6 of the Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities.

States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The UK has ratified the CRPD and In fact, quite a few of disabled activists are heading for Geneva because of the examination of the uk govt for its implementation. I wanted to go but it conflicted with the international women’s day events and me here at WOW.  Disability and feminism. Women organisations do not know much about disability and disabled people’s organisations are gender neutral, we hope to build bridges there and make a change. Just insisting on our rights to be heard and to make spaces more inclusive and accessible are challenges. I hope we have made some difference. If I make a mention here, one Sister of Frida, is Rebecca Bunce who is a co founder of IChange has campaigned tirelessly for the Istanbul Convention and spoken on the need for access at public spaces for disabled women.

The disability movement is very white here and we would like to promote and make black and ethnic minority women more visible. It’s a natural reaction that you don’t join when you can’t identify with the people in it. And to show that they are not just engaged in being there as recipients but also in leadership roles.  We have had discussions on disability and the  cultural differences on the impact of disability. Many BME women come and share with me about their disabilities but they do not self identify (unless it’s a physical visible impairment ) as disabled people  because of the negative perspectives, stigma and non representation. But I know this goes for other communities not just  for Black and women of colour .

And in the UK austerity measures by this government have meant that the intersections of being BME and disabled and women mean that many of us are reeling from the compounding cuts in benefits and services. In all areas of our lives.

My friend and fellow Co founder of SoF, Michelle Daley, has spoken on the importance of intersectionality and the social services on Wednesday, she speaks as a black disabled woman

I quote her:

“I am a woman, a black woman and a disabled woman. In most areas of my life I’m forced to compartmentalised my different intersections…. I relate this point from one of my assessments of need. So when I explained that I needed help with skin care, which is not related to my impairment, it was dismissed. The assessor had no knowledge about skin sensitive and dryness often experienced by Black People and the need for daily skin care to prevent discomfort. In this example it demonstrated how my different intersections as a Black Disabled Woman were not considered and how they interact with each other. ”

She is chairing the SoF panel at 1.15 this afternoon. I recommend you go listen to her and my other Sisters at that panel.  Thank you.

 

row of people at the front. Photo taken from the back, with many rows of headss

Sisters of Frida Panel at the WoW Festival 2017

Why does much of the women’s rights movement marginalise disabled women?

During the last weekend in London at the Women of the World Festival (WOW) a panel of speakers discussed why disability is so often left out of conversations about intersectionality, and surveyed the key battlegrounds that disabled women are fighting on.

The panel was organized by Sisters of Frida.
Speakers included Lydia X. Z. Brown, disability rights activist; Magdalena Szarota, Polish disability rights activist and HIA Polska Board Member; Sarifa Patel of Newham’s Disability Forum; and Simone Aspis, Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) campaigner. Chaired by Michelle Daley of the Sisters of Frida disabled women’s collective.”

Other photos from the Women of the World Festival with SoF and disabled women at Flickr   

3 wheelchair users, oneyoung black, one middle aged East Asian and another white young woman. They are smiling at the camera.e

Becky, Eleanor and Emma

Sarah Rennie on the WEP panel

We collaborated on ‘Disabled women missing from history’ these were exhibited at the cafe of the Royal Festival Hall

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