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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Here are some of them. Videos coming soon.
Many thanks to Rosa UK for enabling this event
We were told about the possibility to add a submission to the UN CESCRÂ Committee which is reviewing the UK at their next session in JuneÂ by the International Disability Alliance.
Armineh Soorenian with Eleanor Lisney with some help from others for references came together with this Submission to CESCR Committee.Sisters of Frida.UK. ENIL also published it under the headingÂ Rights of UK Disabled Women in Spotlight
Sisters of Frida (SoF), a disabled womenâs collective based in the UK, highlighted a number of developments that have negatively impacted on disabled people, in their submission to the UN Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The input provided will feed into ongoing review of the UK by the Committee.
The submission has identified a number of restrictions disabled people face with respect to their economic and social rights (as set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), particularly the impact of austerity measures on their rights enjoyment and exercise.
Among other, SoF has expressed concerns about increasing institutionalisation of disabled people, as a result of the lack of adequate housing strategies. It also warned that the cuts to Access to Work and the Employment Support Allowance have led to further marginalisation of disabled people.
Finally, the submission focuses on Article 10 of the ICESCR â on the protection of family, mothers and children. It sets out barriers faced by disabled women and of those, disabled women from black and ethnic minorities (BME), calling for an amendment to the Serious Crime Act 2015.
See also the article in Disability News Service.
The number and quality of the recommendations made throughout the document was remarked on because ‘it is not a common practice for the committee to address the rights of disabled people in particular women, so comprehensively – re disproportionate impact of austerity measures, social protection, poverty, violence, employment, housing’ etc.
It emphasised problems withÂ welfare reform, saying it was âdeeply concernedâ about âthe various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefitsâ,Â including the reduction of the household benefit cap, the four-year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. It added that these changes adversely affect âwomen, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more childrenâ.
And it called for more information in the UKâs next report to the committee on the impact of its national strategy on gender-based violence, particularly on disabled women and girls.
See John Pring’s article in Disability News Service UN report raises âdeep concernsâ about impact of austerity on disabled people
Read also UK Human Rights Blog on the report
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. She enjoys being on the EVA (Electronic Visualisation & the Arts) London organising committee.
Michelle Daley has over ten years experience working in the field of disability. She has worked for a number of organisations at local, national and international levels to develop, promote and implement policies on equality and diversity. She was one of the founder members of Sisters of Frida. Her work has played a major role in promoting and influencing the inclusion of disabled people in the mainstream society.
Michelle was a former member of Equality 2025, the Independent Living Scrutiny Group and currently a trustee of Independent Living Alternative. She has passionately worked at the grass root level addressing issues such as access, education, independent living and cultural diversity.
Zara Todd has worked and campaigned in the disability rights sector for most of her life at local, national and international levels. She has advised Transport for London, the UK government and the British Council on disability policy and accessibility.Â Much of her has focused her work on supporting other disabled people, particularly children and youth to engage with strategic and policy level decision making. She identifies as a feminist and supports an intersectional approach to identity.
Zara currently manages a team of people delivering community engagement activities for Equal Lives one of the largest disabled peopleâs organisations in the UK. She is a board member for the European Network on Independent Living and chair of itsâ youth network.
Â Kirsty Liddiard isÂ currentlyÂ a Research Associate within theÂ Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth, in theÂ School of Education at the University of Sheffield.Â Prior to this post, Kirsty became the inaugural Ethel Louise Armstrong Postdoctoral Fellow at theÂ School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Kirsty’s research explores the intimate lives of disabled people. HerÂ interests sit primarily at the intersections of disability, impairment and embodiment and gender, sexuality, love, intimacy and citizenship in contemporary dis/ableist cultures (Liddiard 2016 2015; 2014; 2013a; 2013b).Â As aÂ public sociologist (see Burowoy 2013) and activist scholar, Kirsty centres co-production in her research, and views the effective, ethical and accessible communication of knowledge as a form of social, political, and economic justice. She lives happily in a little village with The Boy and The Kid.
Lani Parker has worked on disability issues in various capacities including taking part in campaigns, facilitating training, and working within disabled people’s organisations in the areas of advice, information and advocacy. She has a particular passion for doing the work of connecting social justice issues.
She hopes that Sisters of Frida will benefit from her experience as a disabled woman and commitment to disability justice in a broad sense.
She is excited to use her skills to contribute towards tackling some of the concrete issues that disabled women face.
Rebecca Bunce is a co-founder of the ICchange campaign calling on the UK government to ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence. She is also a human rights researcher with a strong interest in the intersection of women and disabled people’s rights.
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.
Sophie Partridge is a creative practitioner living in London, who trained with Graeae Theatre Co. She has worked extensively since her training, including her 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. Her Media work also includes photo modelling, corporate video and radio. Â She is also a campaigner for the right of all Disabled People to live truly independently!
This was the speech by Eleanor at the WOW Festival on the Disability and FeminismÂ panel.
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 âgrave or systemic violationsâ of disabled peopleâs 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 âcoercive controlâ 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 âin all the circumstances reasonableâ, 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 Â 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
A panel (Disability and Feminism) of campaigners will be asking at the WOW Festival whether the resurgence of mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women and discuss what happens when gender, race and disability collide. Speakers include Becky Olaniyi and Michelle Daley of Sisters of Frida. Chaired by Eleanor Lisney.
The Woman of the World Festival is a festival of talks, workshops and performances celebrating women and girls held at the South Bank.
This follows the disabled performance artist and choreographer Claire Cunningham who offers a provocation on the widely held assumption that disability is a negative state in which to exist, and asks whether dance by only non-disabled people is actually… a bit boring?
Please do come and say hello! You do have to get a ticket but there are limited half price concessions for the day available.