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Bringing disabled women together, mobilising
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Why Sisters of Frida?

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016


Sisters of Frida CIC is an experimental collective of disabled women. We want a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.

Sisters of Frida started at a meeting when we floated the idea of having a disabled women’s group. It took some time to come together – the co founders were Eleanor Lisney, Michelle Daley, Eleanor Firman, Maria Zedda, Svetlana Kotova, Frieda Van De Poll and Martine Miel. We became a CIC in 2014.

We are seeking to build a/or different networks of disabled women.  The barriers and multiple discrimination have not changed, we struggle to have our voices heard as disabled women in our own rights.

We would like a sisterhood, a circle of disabled women to discuss, share experiences and explore intersectional possibilities.

Facebook group (for UK residents) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisofrida/

Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/sistersoffrida/

Instagram: @sisters_of_frida

Twitter: @sisofrida

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e zine “We are Sisters of Frida” (3)

Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2022


This was published in May 2022

Art Piece by K A Tan :A stylised water colour painting of a parent and child stood on the roof of a house that is mostly submerged in flood waters. The roof of the house has a sign that reads Help I Am Deaf. In the background two people in a similar situation are being rescued by a person in a small boat – the house has no sign. At the bottom of the art is a signature that reads Tan Kuan Aw 4 Apr 2022.

Gender, Disability, and the Environment

Sisters of Frida and the National Council of Women of Great Britain ‘s informal discussion on the topic of ‘Disability, Gender, and The Environment’ which was recorded on 24 March 2022 at 6pm GMT. See Transcript

see transcript for discussion

On 24th March, Sisters of Frida (SOF) and the National Council of Women of Great Britain (NCW) hosted a discussion, titled ‘Gender, Disability, and the Environment’. The panel consisted of Khairani Barokka, Asha Hans, Rhine Bernardino, Harrie Larrington-Spencer, as well as Carmen Yau (who chaired the session).

In line with the 66th Commission on the Status of Women, an annual two-week global conference, SOF and NCW contributed to the priority theme of ‘Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes’. Drawing on the experiences of disabled activists and researchers from various countries, this event examined crucial environmental issues in relation to disability, including eco-ableism, inclusive sustainability, accessibility and nature, as well as interconnection and disability climate justice. Surprisingly, the intersection between disabled women and the environment is a largely untouched topic of discussion. Yet, during the event, panellists provided clear examples of the significant challenges that the environmental crisis poses to a vast majority of Deaf and disabled women across the world.

Climate change policies, environmental decision-making and contingency plans have often failed to include Deaf and disabled women. With the rising sea levels, flooding and snow melting, disabled women are more likely to face serious consequences as they are likely to experience poverty. For example, disabled women in India who work as farmers are likely to be forced into migration and have their livelihoods taken away as they can no longer provide for their families in climate-affected regions. With increasing pressures to feed families, 70 per cent of food is needed but agriculture is an impossible reality for disabled women in India.

Another challenge is setting up cyclone shelters, creating infrastructures to find them and making sure that they are friendly for disabled people. Climate disasters, such as typhoons in the Philippines, also underline the expected responsibilities of disabled women to carry out domestic duties, including the burden of survival, looking after the family, and dealing with emergency situations which are caused by climate change. In addition, environmental issues place additional pressures on indigenous disabled women, who are disproportionately affected by land ownership and weapon manufacturing.

Transport justice also offers an important aspect which needs to be considered within this debate. Inclusive active travel with different forms of mobility aids and types of sustainable transport, such as cycling, can help to reduce carbon emissions and challenge traditional stereotypes associated with masculinity in the United Kingdom. Disabled people are commonly spoken over in this discussion, overlooking the additional problems that disabled women often encounter related to abuse, and protective measures.

With unexpected climate crisis challenges and issues, disabled people are faced with greater uncertainty. Disabled women, including indigenous sisters, need to be at the table when discussing environmental policy, and consulted in decision-making processes. Deaf and disabled perspectives must be included in the conversation of climate change – we need to be heard in all the invisible spaces that Deaf and disabled women live in. Grass-roots communication with disabled women in local communities and governmental recognition of these perspectives are therefore central to finding more effective, disability-inclusive solutions, and mitigating the current and future environmental challenges. Ultimately, there is no climate justice without disability justice.

Report by Kirstie Stage

We deserve more

It’s been a pretty shitty 2 years and a little bit of pandemic, and so much more. The usual cares of life as a disabled woman did not pause, but were turned up, and our support structures, escape hatches, and pressure release valves were removed.

No amount of home spa kits, emergency chocolate, meditation podcasts, journaling or posters of kittens telling us to hang in there is going to get us out of this. They might get us a brief moment of joy or motivation, and are worth doing for that alone, but that’s not enough. “In case of emergency, eat chocolate” doesn’t work when there’s a new emergency every day, or an ongoing battle to simply survive.

I’m sick of Self-Care. I know, that’s unthinkable, but I’ve said it and I’ll stick by it. I’m sick of being told to “take care” and “hope” and finding nothing better to say to others. In these times, it’s not enough. I need more words and I don’t know what they are. Netflix and a cup of tea and a snack might get me breathing right again, but it’s not enough. We need more than Self-Care – we deserve more than Self-Care.

We are told the idea that in a world that pushes you back with negative attitudes, loving yourself and showing that through acts of self-kindness is the most radical thing you can do. It has it’s uses, but it’s nowhere near the top of the list. Entire industries and billions in profit have been built from the attempts of the rightfully upset to avoid being crushed by the steamroller of life.

Radical Self-Empathy goes a step further, and may offer another level of relief: It’s OK to be sad that more than a thousand people a week are dying from Covid-19 in the UK. It’s OK to be angry about the things that have happened, and are happening, to you and around you. You feel how you feel, and you have a right to own those feelings.

You can take it a step further, and show Radical Empathy to others, and say “That’s shit” and “O fuck” when something bad happens to someone. I find it more comforting than “take care”, but some others may not find mutual swearing in any way an improvement to the situation.

Even when Radical Empathy, whether shown to ourselves or others, is performed to perfection and meant sincerely, it’s not enough. Sometimes I just don’t want to share how I feel, or put the knowledge of something terrible into someone else’s brain (though I know my friends want me to not hold anything back), or to be validated about something I already know to be true. Though sometimes I do. We need more than empathy – we deserve more than empathy.

We are told in a world that ignores your feelings and the feelings of others, taking time to understand and showing empathy is the most radical thing you can do. It has it’s uses, but it’s not a full solution. Entire industries and billions in profit have been built by the urge to show off just how much we care, flowers that die in a week and gift cards made of deforestation; and the need to have difficult conversations and confront reality, from 24/7 news channels to self-help books and tech-giant sponsored Youtube videos of how to unroot discriminatory ideas from your brain, fuelled by the worthwhile desire to not be that asshole who made things worse by denying that people are being crushed by the steamroller of life.

Restorative justice is the next level often recommended to deal with a situation that’s hurt someone. “You could write to them.” “That’s not legal.” “You can get compensation for that.” It’s powerful, and often satisfying. It can protect our futures, and those of the next generation. But it’s hard, and takes more energy and time than may be available, or healthy and sensible to give. It involves a large number of people agreeing to change, the barriers can be huge, and unjust themselves.

In some situations, there is no justice to be had. No matter what is done, no matter who apologises or changes their policy or overhauls the entire structure of what they do, what has been taken can never be returned. Restorative justice cannot restore before. You can’t fix it, not always. You can stop it from happening again, sometimes, but that’s as far as it goes. Justice isn’t enough. It could never be. We need more than justice – we deserve more than justice.

We are told the idea that in an unjust world, fighting for universal justice is the most radical thing you can do. It has its uses, but it’s not a complete solution. Entire industries and billions in profit have been built from the attempt to dismantle the steamrollers of life, but it won’t restore those who were and are being crushed by them.

Given I’ve just shaken my head at the popular solutions, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m about to unveil some grand plan for removing all inequity and removing the pain of what it has done.

Guess what? I’m not.

I know what the world I want for us to live in looks like, and sounds like, and smells like. There’s clean air to breathe, but you can’t because you’re laughing so much, along with the others who are laughing too. You laugh so much you spit tea out of your nose, and don’t feel embarrassed because there’s no shame in this place; everyone else is too busy wiping laughter tears from their eyes. You are understood without explaining. You’re being taken care of and are taking care of others in return. There’s no need of self-care, or self-empathy, or restorative justice in this place. Nothing bad has happened, not here, and it couldn’t.

That’s what we deserve

Given I’ve just shaken my head at the popular solutions, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m about to unveil some grand plan for removing all inequity and removing the pain of what it has done.

Guess what? I’m not.

I know what the world I want for us to live in looks like, and sounds like, and smells like. There’s clean air to breathe, but you can’t because you’re laughing so much, along with the others who are laughing too. You laugh so much you spit tea out of your nose, and don’t feel embarrassed because there’s no shame in this place; everyone else is too busy wiping laughter tears from their eyes. You are understood without explaining. You’re being taken care of and are taking care of others in return. There’s no need of self-care, or self-empathy, or restorative justice in this place. Nothing bad has happened, not here, and it couldn’t.

That’s what we deserve

By an Anonymous Author

Straddling Identities

I belong to a few communities, but they do not often link up. It feels like parts of my identity are not visible or ignored by the other parts. This feeling of being an outsider is exacerbated during a crisis like the pandemic, as a disabled woman of colour of East/Southeast Asian heritage. Needing to shield and self-isolate (as a disabled person ) made time to reflect and organise differently. I had started to connect with ESEA Facebook and Instagram groups and started attending events. But not all venues/community centres are wheelchair accessible, and I am saddened by that. As a disabled activist, I frequently call out on such venues because there is legislation against this but I am loathe to do this in my own community spaces. Is this a double standard on my part? I am being excluded by my own community – in a space where I can use my mother tongue.

As I write, it is Disability History Month (DHM) (18 November to 18 December). Most people know of the Black History Month (BHM) but not many know of the DHM, not even disabled people themselves. Due to COVID19 restraints, I did some online interviews of the intersection of being disabled and people of colour, including with disabled people from the ESEA community to mark DHM. There is a theme each year and last year it was on Access, this year it is Hidden Impairments and Disability, Sex and Relationships.

There has been none themed yet on intersectionality and so last year I collaborated with a few disabled friends of colour on online videos on how they perceived themselves with the interlinking identities of being disabled and people of colour. Amongst them were people from the East and Southeast Asian communities. Disabled people are found in every sector of society – we are very diverse with a cross section of impairments: physical, visible, learning disabilities, mobility, vision, hearing, neuro diverse. Some of us have our impairments from birth and some have acquired impairments from accidents, illnesses or they can be age or mental health related. One barrier, among others, we all share is the stigma from being disabled. This stigma is even more pronounced among Black and minoritised communities, we are less likely to self-identify as disabled.

Disaggregated data has been signalled as very important in UN shadow reports such as the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and certainly in the pandemic, to ensure that everyone is included when it comes to strategy and policy decisions. However, data as regards to gender, race, sexual orientation etc – all the protected characteristics are not always recorded. At Sisters of Frida, a Disabled women’s collective, we did a report on Disabled Women’s perspectives and how COVID19 has impacted on their independent:

Our briefing ‘The Impact of COVID 19 on Disabled Women from Sisters of Frida’ illustrates that most Disabled women are already on low income. We are more likely to provide domestic care, less likely to be employed, and are less financially independent. We also know that women do not all have the same life experiences and this needs to be reflected in policy making. For example, Disabled women of colour are disproportionately disadvantaged due to racism, disablism and sexism. Disabled lesbians face social exclusion from the LGBTQIA+ community and disability rights groups. While some data exists on some matters affecting Disabled women such as unemployment, intersecting identities such as race, class, sexuality and gender diversity are not taken into account. Therefore, when considering policy on disability issues, it is important that different Disabled women’s experiences are included. This report attempts to incorporate some intersectional depth to Disabled experiences of the pandemic.

Data on how the pandemic has affected the ESEA community is not easy to extrapolate. There are reports such as on Filipino nurses in the UK. However, as far as I know, there is no data breakdown on ESEA disabled, let alone on how they are affected in the pandemic. We can venture a guess on the disruption of family lives because of lockdown. BIPOC/ BAME older folks and disabled tend to have a higher dependence on family members for care duties. I did a video as part of the Sisters of Frida’s report above in which I spoke about the impact of COVID19 and briefly on ESEA racism. However, I think my friend, James Lee, speaks best on this point of being both from the ESEA community and being disabled during this pandemic. James is a disabled consultant who consults for grant funding organisations. His parents are immigrants from Singapore. He remarked that as a disabled person of colour, he is hugely influenced by his parents who are also both disabled people of colour.

On my question (in my interview with him) as to whether the pandemic and the specifically discrimination and violent attacks on people of East / Southeast Asian origins, affected him or if he had any thoughts on that, he responded:

I think that clearly there was a demonstrable rise in racism and in hate crime incidents against people who were of the Southeast Asian heritage or appear to have a Southeast Asian heritage and that all started with I think some of the unhelpful rhetoric on around the world about how we talk about the virus about where you know people deemed case zero to be as it were where people felt the origins of the virus came from.

A lot of that was driven by some of the unhelpful rhetoric around that … It was frankly racist rhetoric – calling things like the China virus and so forth. … It’s horrendous that that happens, I think that if you are a disabled person of Southeast Asian heritage you feel and you have the danger of feeling an even more acute vulnerability to that, and I hate the word vulnerable, I hate to use, I know we use it so much when we talk about disabled people in the context of COVID but I’m talking about vulnerability in the context of hate crime here.

We know that hate crimes against disabled people are hugely underreported; that they are rarely followed up that they rarely end in any form of judiciary action.

To be both disabled and a person of Southeast Asian heritage, I think puts you at an even greater … it leaves you feeling so much more exposed, so much more targeted and singled out. And it may well be that the people all around me that the thought had never crossed their mind to say anything that was racist or to say anything that was ableist. But there is a level in which we talk about internalized ableism we talk about internalized racism and there is a level to which that you can’t help but have that creep into your psyche a little bit. To the extent where you know – I would go to the shops and I think all right – do I, you know – are people looking at me more?

So I’ve got what I like to think is a relatively thick skin. I’ve been a wheelchair user for a very long time I, you know, don’t bat an eyelid at the occasional lingering glance or the occasional, you know, I almost said longing stare. There the occasional, the occasional lingering glance or like if someone looks at you and you know that they’re thinking something or you project that they’re thinking something slightly unkind as disabled people may do but I think that that combination of factors – the prevailing mood of racism at a time when there was also this huge issue with disability hate crime is just – it’s not a pleasant combination.

Realising the different identities and my own specific heritage, I applied to be one of the directors of the End Violence and Racism Against East and Southeast Asian communities (EVR) and am honoured to be accepted. I hope to work for the identities I belong to with the passion I feel for justice, equity and inclusion for everyone.

Eleanor Lisney

This article was first published by ESEA Hub.

City of Women London

This collaborative public history project ‘City of Women London’ aimed to redraw and reimagine the classic London Underground map to produce an alternative map, replacing existing station names with the names of remarkable female or non-binary Londoners who have had an impact on the city’s history.

Led by writer Reni Eddo-Lodge and actor Emma Watson, who worked with writer and activist Rebecca Solnit and partnered with Transport for London (TfL), the project – called City of Women – draws from figures in arts, sports, activism, science, media, law, medicine and beyond. The digital version, led by Dr Leah Lovett (UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis), allows people to learn more about each person and their lives. The online map launches with featured biographies and interviews from contemporary women and non-binary people.

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e zine “We are Sisters of Frida” (2)

Posted on Sunday, May 15th, 2022


This was published December 2021.

A still and digital print from Aminder Virdee’s series ‘KaleidoSkeleton Ti: The Desi Cyborg (2020-21)’. Virdee’s work was included as one of the best avant-garde audiovisual works of the year for BFI’s International Film Magazine, Sight & Sound, in their annual special

You can visit Aminder’s website to learn more about the artist and visit the full project webpage for the full background, exhibition information, and the project itself.

International Roundtable

Back at the end of September, we held an international disabled sisters roundtable with some amazing speakers – Virginia OssanaCarmen YauMali HermansRachel O’Brien; and Eleanor Lisney.

The event was recorded and now available on YouTube, and is also embedded below!

P.A.s and Consent

“There was an incident. I’ve had to end someone’s contract, which was awful. For confidentiality, I can’t tell you the details.”

That’s what I’ve been saying for days, to anyone close enough to know both people involved. This is what really happened.

I hired a PA I shouldn’t have. I saw red flags at interview, and I doubted myself. I’m aware I’m not a trusting person, and that my instincts can be wrong, and so I chose to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Fast forward 6 months, and I’m crying and shaking behind my laptop, trying not to make a sound, desperately asking friends what to do.

All because the PA lay their arm on my breast when washing my face. This doesn’t sound like a lot, and I spent a long time telling myself to stop being “silly”, it’s nothing.

The reason I felt like this was because it wasn’t nothing. It wasn’t the first time, or the 20th time. It wasn’t something that could be avoided by careful explaining, because I’d done that. It wasn’t because the person didn’t know that you need to be respectful around other people’s bodies, and in particular the 3 Bs: Boobs, Bums, and Bits. I’d explained that, awkwardly but properly.

No, I was shaking and crying because non-consensual touching is icky.

The more it happens, the more icky it is, and if it’s any of the 3 Bs, it’s extra ick. I don’t think anyone reading this would disagree with this.

Though the PA did. “I didn’t mean to”; “I don’t know how to do that”; “I forgot”. The first several dozen times, I listened to that, and gave her another chance, and another, another. And each time it felt more ick, until just the sound of the PA’s voice made me start to feel panic.

Luckily, I have good friends, who were able to advise me and seek further advice on my behalf. They told me I didn’t have to go through that indefinitely. They told me it was OK to trust my judgement, and they would support me regardless of what decision I would make. They didn’t downplay it or ask unnecessary questions. They gave me the facts, and a bucket of empathy, and made sure I took care of myself and took that as a priority. It was gross misconduct, which means the PA has been fired. I’m safe now.

Why? Why did you do this? I kept wondering. Then someone with a similar experience asked me if they were consciously or unconsciously getting something out of it. I remembered the smile on the PA’s face when being too hands-on, and the movements of their touch. Yes, they enjoyed it. I can’t say exactly why or how, but they were getting joy out of something that made me feel uncomfortable, and continued to do this after being told many times that it wasn’t alright to do this. Icky.

I’m writing this because I hope it’ll be useful to someone else. The more trusted friends I spoke with, the more it became obvious that I was not alone.

To prove this, I asked SoF to put up a Twitter poll. The results speak for themselves. This happens. A lot more than we’re willing to talk about, and a lot more than we deserve.

image of a twitter poll with question : Have you or another disabled person you know felt uncomfortable as a result of inappropriate touch by a care worker, PA, or carer?
81% voted yes, 19% voted no. Total 63 votes.

I’m not upset and scared anymore. I’m angry. Angry at the PA for behaving that way. Angry that my friends have also had to deal with similar experiences, and much worse. Angry at myself for not acting faster. Angry at being angry. Angry at the silence, which needs to be shattered. Angry that there are no guides or support resources to be easily found.

This is going to change.

Invisible

I’m part of a number of communities, groups in which I gain support where we have solidarity with each other because we share common issues. Those communities exist because of need very often because our needs are not met or recognised by society in general and we experience discrimination. Strangely, I have often experienced invisibility within two of my core communities while also failing to be recognised as Queer or disabled by people outside of those communities.

As a Femme Dyke and a person with so called ‘invisible’ disabilities I often go unrecognised both in my own communities and in larger society. In the Queer world people use the flawed term ‘passing’ to mean being perceived as heterosexual or cis-gendered. As a person with so called invisible disabilities I’m often told how well I look, I ‘pass’ momentarily. Sometimes invisibility can shield me from verbal attacks or physical danger aimed at queer or disabled people, but invisibility does not change who I am or the impairments I live with. Invisibility can be an erasing and undermining experience.

As a Femme Dyke and a gender queer person, I’ve been told ‘Never in a million years I would have dreamed you were gay’. Coming from another queer person that statement makes me wonder exactly what it is they expect to see? Meanwhile being invisible as queer in the ‘Straight’ world can be disorientating while providing glimpses of the casual homophobia that people engage in.

Years ago, when civil partnerships became legal for gay people, I remember going into a Newsagents; magazines were laid out on the counter one featuring a picture of Elton John’s big GAY wedding. As I paid for my purchases the owner of the store pointed to picture and asked ‘So what do you think of this?’ I assumed he was asking me because I was gay. My girlfriend of that time was standing next to me, the shop keeper nodded to her and said ‘Alright Geezer?’ I was wrong, he had assumed we were a straight couple! Pointing at the gay wedding picture again he said ‘I don’t think it’s right’. I replied icily ‘I’m gay and you are homophobic’.

Gay marriage beyond civil partnership did not become legal for a further nine years in 2013. When I was a teenager, in the country I grew up in it was illegal to be gay. Invisible or not I cannot forget these things.

In terms of chronic illness my invisibility has meant being denied treatment, I’ve been told by gatekeepers that there is ‘nothing wrong with me’ or that I am ‘not sick enough’, bullied and gaslit in a healthcare system where treatment is rationed. After living with Hep C for thirty years which hugely impacted my health I bought generics online, a cure I had not been able to access via the NHS.

Only recently has the publication of new NICE guidelines for ME/CFS removed graded exercise therapy and CBT as direct treatments. Perhaps now we might see a change in the attitudes of health care professionals who for decades implied that the illness was all in our minds. Those attitudes of denial lead me to doubt myself, to push beyond energy limits, to fail and think it was all my fault. Invisibility meant people in positions of power felt free to act as if I was asking for special treatment rather than reasonable adjustments. I’ve been sneered at for asking to use the lift, or asking for quieter environments so I can hear and focus on what is being said. Once when I was in a lot of pain and having difficulty finding a way to sit comfortably, I was stared at and asked if I’d ever had a real job!

My experiences as a Femme Dyke and as a person living with chronic health conditions both illustrate of how not fitting expectations – being invisible – can result in discrimination. As I write I find myself worrying that people will read this and think I’m making a fuss about nothing! Because invisibility often means being asked what I’m complaining about.

Fortunately, the other side of the equation is the communities of visibility I’ve found, those who share similar experiences to mine. That amazing feeling of recognition of not needing to explain feeling affirmed and as if other people really ‘get’ me. Communities of shared experience have nourished me, helped me to recognise my struggles as political and social issues. Helped me to learn skills, to value who I am, to celebrate and have fun together. The recognition and support of community has helped give me strength to fight harder in the outside world. To speak up against sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, to advocate for my own care, to believe in my own voice and rights!

Finally, my complex experience as an ‘Invisible’ has given me perspective to be able to question assumptions, to think about what is recognised and validated. To consider community beyond visible categories. To feel sure that just as I’ve experienced discrimination and exclusion due to things that others don’t recognise, there must be things I too am not aware of. To ask myself what listening and patience I can practice to learn about others visible and invisible lives, and in doing so make society a richer and more accessible space.

Jet Moon is a multi-disciplinary artist who writes, performs and collaborates on fierce work for radical social change, creating intimate spaces of sharing, visibility and resistance. They are currently assembling an Artists Book from materials gathered as part of ‘Resilient and Resisting’ stories from people at the intersection of queerness, kink, disability, sex work and survivorship.
You can find out more at the Resilient and Resisting website.

Abortion is a Disability Rights Issue

Maybe that instinct is perverse, but I think of it as asking for

a world in which a woman who doesn’t

have children is worth as much as a woman who does. [1]

I was born in the early `80s, while the World was changing its course, but it feels like life was easier, even though times were harder. You might say that life is always easier when you are a child, which is true, but disability changes the perspective. Being born with a genetic, congenital illness made me more attentive to the surrounding world since I was a kid. I was aware of my otherness, as I was taken from one specialist to another, searching for the answers about my condition. When kids were going to school, I was home-schooled. Rehabilitation has always been more important to my family, so everything had to be subordinated to this. Being surrounded by specialists, therapists and other patients, mostly adults, made me mature quicker. I was happy by myself, playing alone or with surrounding adults.

Growing up, I wasn’t much aware of my body changing, maturing. I was transforming into a teenager, my shapes were getting rounder. I still felt like my body wasn’t really connected to my mind, to my self. It wasn’t my identity. It was a body, that was handled by others — it was transferred, moved, turned, dressed, etc. Even during medical procedures, which required undressing, I wasn’t abashed. Like my body wasn’t truly mine. It was just an object my self was attached to, probably by accident. Nowadays, I’m more attached to my body, though it’s not a fixed connection and it’s usually connected to an erotic experience. Still, it’s my body and I decide how it should be treated.

I exactly remember the moment, when I’ve heard the news about the decision [2] of the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland. It was 22nd October of 2020 and I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry and disappointed in my life. I was angry because women were stripped of their laws. I was disappointed by the government, by the country. I’ve never been a supporter of the current government, but I hoped they have some decency left. Apparently, I was wrong.

Women all over the country went ballistic. It didn’t matter if they had a disability or not. That abortion ban has moved everyone. As a woman with a disability myself, I was shocked that anyone in their right mind can think that giving birth to a child with fatal defects is humane. I have never thought about having a child. I need a lot of help in my daily life, so adding a child to this equation would be too much. Adding a child to this world, where everything is falling apart, would be extremely selfish, too. My first reaction to the abortion law was a short text I’ve posted on my Facebook wall. I didn’t expect it will cause a reaction it did. My general point was that we, as women, need to have a choice. We are not empty vessels, which can carry any kind of foetus. We are human beings who can feel pain and emotions. I’ve also added that disfigured cluster of tissue is not a child, it’s just an alien growth in a woman’s body. What caused the greatest outrage, was a statement that I wouldn’t be surprised or angry if my mother had aborted me if she knew that I’ll be born with a genetic condition. At that time, she would be able to abort the pregnancy, even though we consider the `80s times of oppressive regime. How do we call the present government then? Not a democracy for sure.

Women with disabilities are treated as asexual beings. We have difficulty accessing medical care, especially gynaecological care. It’s not only about architectural inaccessibility, but also lack of willingness from the medical team. How can a woman with a disability have sex or be pregnant? That’s not how it should be. A lot of women are also too embarrassed to visit a doctor, considering they will need someone to help them before, during and after the medical exam. After all, our intimate parts and sexual life are the most private thing. Not being able to get regular exams is an act of violence. Not many people realise how harmful it is to neglect one’s health.

After a year of women fighting constantly with the government and pro-life activists, we get a possibility of new oppression. Proposed changes criminalise abortion and threaten both women and medical team with murder charges [3]. What kind of absurdity is this?

Not every woman wants to be a mother. Pushing women to become mothers, no matter the circumstances is a violence of the worst kind. No one will care about the actual child, which was born with an illness, birth defect or disability. It doesn’t matter its mother will be going through hell, without institutional support. Polish government cares more about the foetus, wasted sperm and eggs than a real human being. Woman with a disability can also give birth to a sick child. What if she didn’t want it? A women with a disability can be raped, taken advantage of, can be left alone. Pregnancy is not a walk in the park, it can be dangerous, in can be lethal. Does anyone care? No.

Violence and oppression have many faces. Being born as a woman with a disability puts you lower than others in society. Such a person is being oppressed right from the start. You have to fight your way through everything and prove yourself better than others. Poland has nothing to offer to you. You can go rot somewhere in a corner, because you were worth more as an unwanted, defective foetus than you are now, as an educated, tax-paying adult with a disability. We, women, won’t stop our fight until this situation will turn around and actual human being will be worth more than a ball of random cells. I hope this will happen one day and I’ll be still around to see it.

References

[1] Merrit Tierce, The Abortion I didn’t haveThe New York Times Magazine, 02.12.2021
[2] To learn more, please read this article from the MS magazine
[3] The project to criminalise abortion was rejected by the Parliament on the 3rd of December 2021, though it doesn’t mean we are safe.

Patrycja Polczyk is a social anthropologist, philosopher, researcher, woman with disability, and feminist. Patrycja is a published author of scholar papers and articles in mainstream media, with Disability Studies and Autoetnography as her main research interests. Her experience comes from studying, taking part in international Summer Schools and research projects. She is currently working in customer care, but trying to find time for personal passions – researching, traveling, reading and writing old-school paper letters.

On Assisted Dying

TLDR: Assisted Dying would put women, disabled women, and other marginalised groups at risk. We can do so much better, and deserve better.

In May 2021, Baroness Meacher proposed a bill that legalised assisting someone to end their life. As a feminist, and a disabled person, I oppose this.

As the law stands at the moment, doctors can’t kill people. They’d lose their right to practice medicine, and be tried through the criminal justice system. The Assisted Dying bill removes this, and creates a specific set of circumstances where doctors can take a life, if that person feels they no longer want to live.

Outside of these specific circumstances, a person who expressed that feeling to a medical professional would be offered access to appropriate mental health support. They would be listened to, and the aim would be to create a situation that allowed the person to feel that they can live the time that they can.

Some reading the above might snigger at my apparently rose-tinted view of how people are supported. Yes, I know that mental health services are under-funded and somewhat patchy in availability and quality. This on its own is an argument against Assisted Dying – we’re already failing some people who need mental health support, so offering someone that option after perhaps years of lack of access to appropriate mental health services is not kindness, but further negligence.

What are those specific circumstances described in the bill? At the moment, the person asking for assistance to die must have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than 6 months and must have the capacity to make that decision.

But who, in reality, would this impact?

Workers and family members

I’ve read arguments in favour of AD/AS which state that it would reduce the workload on women – female nurses, care workers, and family members who are more likely to be supporting the person with their needs, everything from fetching a glass of water to giving pain meds to organising finances.

In reality, legalising AD will not change the lives of these women, and to say that it will is to ignore what is needed.

Liveable wages and sick pay, access to training opportunities, and local solutions to the day-to-day issues faced in work are a must. Staff and families watching a loved one experience pain without access to a pain specialist will be drained by supporting someone through this situation, but the situation can be changed. Taking people’s pain seriously and making sure that availability of medication and discussion of options is smooth and consistent will change the situation.

This is just one factor we can improve by looking at what the problem is and ending it. The person’s life is not the problem.

Women and other marginalised groups, including disabled people

In places where AD is already legal, many factors interplay into what kind of treatment and services, and wider social experience, a person has access to, and what decision they will make.

A consistent factor in opting for AD is isolation. The presence of a high quality support network which does not melt away when needed is vital. (Maytal & Stern, 2006).

Unfortunately, consistent support is not automatically on tap, and women and other marginalised groups are more at risk of isolation.

A 2009 study looking at the rates of divorce for people diagnosed with MS or a brain tumour found that women were more likely to become divorced after diagnosis than men: six times more likely (Glantz et al., 2009).

The evaporation of support from family and friends is not solved by AD legislation. Making sure that the person has access to technology to keep in contact, along with access to practical and psychological support for both the person and their support network, can keep some ties from fraying. Employers can make time available through compassionate leave, or changes to working hours. The wider support network can assist with childcare, picking up essentials, and household maintenance. We can make space for people to be there.

More widely, groups that are already at higher risk of isolation need the barriers to building a reliable support network to be removed. -isms, -phobias, and hate have got to go. Respect, listening, allyship and change need to become “the norm”.

We can choose to say “There’s nothing more we can do”. But that’s a lie, and we deserve better.

Fleur is a wheelchair user. She has a ponytail, glasses, dangling. earrings and a rainbow zigzags black tee shirt.

Fleur Perry is a disabled campaigner and law student with focuses including accessible housing, independent living, and Human Rights. She is interested in representations of disability in media, and disability data as a tool for recording and creating change.

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Our e zine “We are Sisters of Frida” (1)

Posted on Sunday, May 15th, 2022


We launched this e zine last year in October, 2021. We decided against calling it a newsletter because it’s not just about our news but the voices of disabled women and non binary people, showing opinions, reflections and creative pieces.

We had members who wanted the possibility of sharing some of individual pieces so we’ re posting here for easy retrieval later.

We are very grateful to Rachel Gadsden who created these three beautiful images specially for this issue of We are Sisters of Frida upon request. Rachel is a visual and performance artist working across mainstream and diverse art sectors in UK and internationally.

We need you here

From Fleur Perry
Fleur is a law student and disabled people’s activist living in the South West. Her main interests are accessible housing and Equality Act breaches.

Fighting for your needs and your rights can be draining in every way. You push and push against a sea of eyebrows slightly raised in amused disbelief, or bent into a sharp frown of “How dare you?” or receive the same flat emails carefully constructed to make “Go away” sound like good business.
If that seems familiar, you are not alone. You don’t need to fight this alone. Every member of the SoF community has met a barrier that needs smashing. As disabled women and non-binary disabled people, we know the impact it has, what it feels like, and have words for feels that non-disabled people have never had to know.
We share those experiences, the bad and the good. We share knowledge and resources and music and poetry, building context and learning from each other. Judgement and shame, intrusive questions and gossip are for somewhere else – not here. Mutual solidarity, inclusion, and making space are key principles.
We want you here. We want your opinions. We want your voice. Got something to say that no one’s ever said before? Say it here. Know something that you don’t think will make sense to anyone else? Try us! We want to understand. You will be heard. You will be believed. You will be valued.
We think this is the first step to change. If we want to try to do something to make our world a better place to live, it has to work for everyone, and that’s means we need everyone. If we don’t have you, we’re missing out.
I think the community is the most valuable part of SoF. The reports and opportunities to campaign on some of the biggest issues in the UK today are all built from the experiences of individuals, and the time and energy they each give to making sure that knowledge isn’t lost, but unleashed.
What do you want to say?

“Disability justice is the art and the practice of honouring the body” An interview with Lydia X.Z. Brown

In this interview with Lani Parker of Sideways Times, Lydia X.Z Brown talks about disability justice as a praxis which honours the body and the whole person. Disability justice is a radical framework which requires understanding the interconnected nature of oppression and that we must tackle all forms of oppression in order to change the system we live in. We also talk about differences in language, tensions within disability movements and the importance of using a variety of tactics amongst other things…

Read or listen to it at Sideways Times. Thank you, Lani and Lydia for the podcast.

We are warriors

from Sarah Rennie

Sarah is a former solicitor, her day-to-day work is research and governance advice. However, Sarah delivers disability equality training nationwide and acts as a consultant for select clients on internal equality working groups.

I owe a great deal to Sisters of Frida.

Years ago, I was asked me to join the steering group and I experienced a major case of imposter syndrome. Looking back – I’m not going to lie – I did have a lot to learn. I was in my late 20s and feeling pretty unsure about my identity. In fact, I would sometimes feel uncomfortable around disabled people due to what I now realise is a classic case of internalised ableism. I was a feminist, a solicitor-turned-access-consultant, a feminist and had started attending disability rights protests. Sheepishly, alone and stood at the back.

Within Sisters of Frida, I saw myself as the boring but useful person who could help with governance and report writing. In a space with such incredible and talented disabled women, I was just in awe. I listened a lot and absorbed their ideas and critiques like a sponge. Whilst I battled my insecurities, I was made nothing but welcomed and treated as one of the gang.

After helping out where I could, one of the first projects I really got my teeth into was the Serious Crime Act and the defence to the crime of coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. I represented Sisters of Frida at the UN in Geneva, along with other DDPOs, to present evidence of violations on disabled people’s rights to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People. This was one of the greatest honours of my life.

Over the years, my confidence grew but so did my personal self-esteem. I finally felt comfortable in my own skin and proud to be a disabled woman. Whenever anyone asks why, I always credit the experiences I had and friendships I made through Sisters of Frida.

But my newfound confidence in activism was bitter sweet. In 2019, I was about to face a pretty tough challenge: the block of flats I live in is wrapped in cladding like that of Grenfell Tower and riddled with fire safety defects. I knew that disabled people were facing additional financial and safety issues, such as lack of savings or means of escape, so I co-founded Claddag, a disability action group, with another disabled woman. Sadly for me, I knew I couldn’t run the campaign and fulfil my commitment to Sisters of Frida so I had to resign from the latter. As expected, the team understood completely and have given me loads of emotional and practical help with Claddag.

If our fight for justice in the building safety crisis is successful, then my first task will be to knock on Sisters of Frida’s door and ask if they’ll take me back to support with the work. As they are a group of compassionate, inclusive, uplifting and strong warriors and I have no reason to think they won’t welcome me home.

A unique voice: why Sisters of Frida Matters

by Bethany Young 

Bethany is actively involved in with Third Sector organisations, promoting equality and advocating for disability rights. She is a SOF steering group member.

People often ask me why I joined Sisters of Frida. Why do you need it? In the past, I have asked the same question.. For years, I had soaked up the idea that my barriers came from having Cerebral Palsy. It was my job to overcome these. My experience of being both Disabled and a girl, then a woman, led to more isolation, and more hurdles that others didn’t see. If I could not clear them or ignore them myself I was a failure. It was all my fault.

Looking back, these beliefs I was taught about myself made no sense. I was putting loads of effort and skill into every area of my life – from employment and Independent Living to family relationships and managing my CP. Nothing changed, in fact the barriers got worse. After reaching out for help, I asked myself – maybe the problem isn’t me? I realised that so many of my experiences came from the strings attached to me. My CP is mine. My body and my mind are mine. These barriers are not. I felt relieved because my struggles made sense without shame or guilt. Everything I thought I knew about Disability shattered. Such a big realisation gave me a sense of hope and freedom, but also fear. I was starting again. Now I had asked the right questions, I needed answers.

I looked for mentors in the Disabled community to get peer support and find out more. I wanted an active community working for social change. Before long, I found Sisters of Frida – a disability organisation truly led by diverse Disabled women. Their inclusive vision and values, creativity and collaborative way of working all made me want to get involved.

Since joining Sisters of Frida, I have worked on lots of wonderful opportunities. I’ve written quotes for press releases, helped plan events, write reports and advocate for Independent Living. Planning for our future is exciting. We are unique because we recognise people don’t exist in clinical, clear-cut tick boxes. Real life diversity is social, human and multi-layered. This idea drives Sisters of Frida’s work and partnerships. We build relationships to connect with other women’s organisations. We bring our lived experience, and knowledge to new audiences. I have amplified the voices of diverse Disabled women on current struggles, like Social Care or Covid-19. Our perspectives don’t need to stay in an isolated bubble. Together, as Sisters of Frida, we spark better, bolder conversations to create change.

I am proud of all I have learned and achieved so far whilst working with everyone in Sisters of Frida. I am a better communicator, collaborator and activist. Working with these women shifted how I saw myself. I know my worth. I found my voice by listening to them. I found answers by learning from them. I am not alone, because together we are Sisters of Frida.

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‘Disability, Gender, and The Environment’ on 24 March 2022 , 6pm GMT. 

Posted on Wednesday, March 16th, 2022


Sisters of Frida and the National Council of Women of Great Britain are delighted to invite you to an informal discussion titled ‘Disability, Gender, and The Environment’ on 24 March 2022 at 6pm GMTWe will have BSL interpretation and captioning at the live event. 

For friends in different time zones, this converter may be of use: https://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-bin/tzc.tzc

Please sign up via Eventbrite here as we would love to stay in touch. Event details and registration can be found at this link.

Deaf and Disabled women need to be at the table discussing important issues, and the environment encapsulates several areas which deserve significant attention. 

Please get in touch if you have any further questions, or have difficulty with accessing the event. Contact email is hello@sisofrida.org.

blue background with light blue clouds at the top of the page. In bold font, it reads ‘Discussion’ with ’18:00 GMT (London) on Zoom’ underneath. Main title reads ‘Disability, Gender, and the Environment’ in slanted text. There is a blue and green image of the globe with an infographic in the centre of a wheelchair user in a pinstripe suit and a woman dancing. In slanted font, there is ‘24th March 2022’. Below, in bold white text, the main description reads: ‘Engaging with CSW66’s priority theme of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction, Sisters of Frida and the National Council of Women of Great Britain host an online discussion to consider how these matters affect Deaf and Disabled women. In this session, we welcome participants from all parts of the globe who have different lived experiences to share their perspectives and contribute to policy discussions around how Deaf and Disabled women are affected by green issues. Captioning and BSL interpretation are provided’.

Panelists

Black and white photo of an Indonesian woman with short hair, earrings, and a patterned dress, lying down on her front, pen in hand, ready to write. Picture credit: Derrick Kakembo.
Khairani Barokka

Khairani is a Minang-Javanese writer and artist from Jakarta, whose work has been presented widely internationally, and centres disability justice as anti colonial praxis. Among her honours, she has been Modern Poetry in Translation‘s Inaugural Poet-in-Residence, a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change, and Associate Artist at the National Centre for Writing (UK). Okka’s books include Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis) and Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (as co-editor, Nine Arches). Her latest book is Ultimatum Orangutan (Nine Arches), shortlisted for the Barbellion Prize. A frequent public speaker, Okka’s most recent talk was on eco ableism, for Women of the World Festival 2022 at Royal Festival Hall.

An Asian woman with glasses, black top and a green patterned sari
Asha Hans

 Asha is former Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies at Utkal University India. She is a recent Member Board UN Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund; Member Board Women Enabled International (USA). She is the founder of SMRC a disability organisation  and Women with Disabilities India Network. She has worked with CEDAW and UNCRPD Committee on women with disabilities in India.

Her recent books are 

2021  Engendering Climate Change Learnings from South Asia 

2020 Asha Hans Disability, gender, and the trajectories of power (Japanese edition) by Asha Hans, 

Forthcoming 2022 Forthcoming Disability and Climate Change 

Young Filipino woman with light top top.
Rhine Bernardino

Rhine is an artist, independent curator and researcher with a background in filmmaking. They hold an MA Fine Art degree (Sculpture) from the Royal College of Art, for which they were awarded the highly-regarded Abraaj-RCA Innovation Scholarship. Rhine has curated and exhibited their artwork internationally especially in Europe and Asia. They have been invited to take part in several international art residencies and programmes most recently as part of the Australia Arts Council’s Future Leaders Programme, Office of Contemporary Art (OCA) Norway’s International Visitors Programme and Tokyo Arts and Space (TOKAS) research residency in Japan. They have been doing extensive field research and mapping of art collectives, alternative spaces and community-based projects across the globe. In building on this work, they have been looking at a myriad of possibilities of working with communities through art practice in driving societal change and highlighting marginalised voices. 

Harrie Larrington-Spencer

Harrie is a researcher in Healthy Active Cities at the University of Salford and has just submitted her PhD in human geography at the University of Manchester. Harrie’s research and personal interests focus upon sustainability and inclusive active travel and ensuring that the needs of disabled people are centralised within environmentalism. Harrie is a disabled cyclist and (along with her dog Frida) uses social media to demonstrate how brilliant and inclusive cycling can be, as well as highlighting the specific barriers that disabled cyclists face in their everyday travels. Harrie has recently been recognised as one of the Shaw Trust’s Disability Power 100 for her work and activism.

Carmen is an East Asian woman. She has long black hair tied back in a pony tail. She is wearing glasses and a blue top.
Carmen Yau

Carmen Yau (Chair) is currently a Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Greenwich. As a multi-award-winning Disability x Gender advocate in Asia, Carmen is dedicated to enhancing equality and inclusion for people with disabilities and intersectional women. She touches a range of topics from accessibility and universal design, sexuality and LGBTQ, interpersonal violence, physical and mental health.

As a social work practitioner, Carmen is interested in narrative practice and digital storytelling. She commits to bridge social work theories and practice to the digital era. She explores potential social work practice in the information communication technology context.

NCW logo

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Event We Are Sisters of Frida Saturday 25th September 12 noon – Join us!

Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2021


It’s been sometime since we have had meetings – since the lockdown but as disabled people, we are still not confident about having face to face meetings and travelling on public transport.

At Sisters of Frida we decided to have a zoom meeting on Saturday 25th September at noon. It will be an event with a stimulating roundtable discussion with our international disabled sisters from around the world and then breakout sessions among you to discuss where you think SOF should be heading.

You can join using this Zoom link

Speakers

Pale skinned woman with long wavy hair

Virginia Ossana is disability and gender justice advocate. She is originally from Argentina and is currently based in Warwickshire, UK.

She works as a Communications and Programs Advisor at Women Enabled International, where she participates on a variety of projects to advance the rights of women and marginalized genders with disabilities around the world.

East Asian woman with long hair and glasses. She is smiling

Carmen Yau won Spirit of Hong Kong in 2013 and few more awards afterwards as a recognition of her work for disabled people and the community. Carmen devotes herself to enhance social and workplace inclusion for disabled people by providing seminars and corporate training on disability confidence.

As a registered social worker, Carmen’s work varied from workplace inclusion to sexuality and LGBTQ disabled community. Besides lobbying more job opportunities for disabled people, Carmen is dedicated to enhancing professional development and leadership of disabled people. Carmen is the current Chairperson of Association of Women with Disabilities in Hong Kong.

pale skinned woman with glasses and arms akimbo

Mali Hermans is a young Wiradjuri writer, organiser and community worker living on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land in Canberra, Australia. As a disabled woman, Mali is deeply invested in disability justice work, committed to challenging ableism and its intersections with colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy and class.
She has organising experience within grassroots community groups, feminist spaces and the union movement. Mali is a current Policy and Projects Officer at Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), having previously worked in gender-based violence prevention.

From the Sisters of Frida team

white blonde woman with hoop earrings

Rachel O’Brien is the Independent Living Campaigns Officer at Inclusion London after working at the National Union of Students as the Disabled Students’ Officer where she did work on movement building and political education, and campaigns around stopping the privatisation of the NHS and stopping and scrapping Universal Credit.

She is a director and a member of the SOF Steering Group.

East Asian woman with clipped hair and glasses

Eleanor Lisney is a campaigner, founder member, public speaker. She is a director and a member of the SOF Steering Group.

She is an access advisor, an aspiring creative practitioner and co founder of Culture Access CIC, which is about supporting access, bringing an inclusive edge intersectionally.

Agenda for the event

12:00 (noon) Start with introduction to Sisters of Frida and speakers

12:05 Roundtable with guest speakers

12:25 Discussion and questions for panel

12:35 Questions from participants

12:40 Conclusions and thank you to guest speakers

12:45 Break (15 minutes)

13:00 Breakout rooms

Questions

  • What struck you about the roundtable discussion?
  • How does this connect with your involvement (current or future) with Sisters of Frida?

13:45 Comfort break (15 minutes)

14:00 Feedback and what next?

14:30 End

BSL interpreters from Signalise and live captioning will be available.

Music in the interval from Miss Jacqui with thanks for permission.

Thank you to Campaign Bootcamp who generously provided funding that allowed us to make this event accessible.

Useful information

Sisters of Frida wants you to get involved! SoF has been working to build our capacity by working to make our processes more transparent and  to help streamlined so build up disabled women’s voices in all our magnificence. In order to do this we need to expand our steering group. Would you like to help steer the direction of Sisters of Frida? You will meet new people, learn and share new skill. If so, please send an email to  sisofrida@gmail.com and we will send you more information. 

The steering group is not the only way you can get involved. You can now join working groups and work on specific projects. If you are interested please get in touch at sisofrida@gmail.com

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Tribute to Nila Gupta

Posted on Monday, June 21st, 2021


Sisters of Frida wish to offer our deepest condolences to everyone who knew and loved Nila Gupta, we know their loss will be heart felt. 

How do we even begin to tribute the vibrant and radical being of Nila, our friend? Nila was talented, radical, unique in their insight and was amazing at connecting with people. Nila was also a great activist and has been involved in many networks and projects, as well as the recent ones below. 

We can share some of Nila’s recent work in the disabled people’s movement, as Nila speaks best for themselves..

Part of Nila’s legacy will be that they co-founded Onyx, and we encourage other BiPOC disabled artists to get involved. 

We are saddened that Nila will no longer be able to join us in future projects, and Nila’s fire will burn on in our hearts and Nila’s legacies. 


Written by Dennis Queen for Sisters of Frida

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Videos: Impact of Covid19 on independent living on disabled women

Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2021


Edited video of the Impact of Covid19 on independent living : Disabled women’s voices. Edited by Leonore Schick. Featuring Jumoke, Sarah, Rebecca, Sarifa, Eleanor, Anahita, Rachel and Michelle.
Jumoke A. Young Black woman with head covering and a dark blue top
Sarah R. A white woman with short hair and a pink top with black motifs
Rebecca B. A white woman with brown rimmed glasses and white headband
Sarifa P. A South Asian woman with headwear and glasses
Eleanor L. East Asian woman with short grey and black hair with black rimmed glasses and a grey hoodie.
AnahitaH. A young woman with short hair and dark top
Michelle B. A white, blonde haired woman with headphones, round glasses with a bright psychedelic backdrop
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Recording: Disabled women’s perspectives on Independent Living during the pandemic

Posted on Sunday, May 23rd, 2021


The recording of the webinar is here.

YouTube video of Sisters of Frida’s report launch

Here is the

transcript : webinar launch

The report is here

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Report: Disabled women’s perspectives on Independent Living during the pandemic

Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2021


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction

The ‘Disabled Women’s Perspectives on Independent Living During the Pandemic’ report provides an insight into the experiences of Disabled women during the Covid-19 pandemic. It introduces the ways in which policies pertaining to managing the pandemic by the government, local authorities and other bodies have affected Disabled women’s ability to live independently. Our report provides Disabled women’s perspectives on a number of issues, such as: financial struggle, experiences of ableism in the employment sector, issues with local authorities and the social care system, getting the appropriate healthcare, struggles in accessing food and other household supplies, and importantly a stark deterioration in mental health. 

These issues are a culmination of longstanding government policies which have been detrimental to Disabled women’s lives from 2008 to now. For over a decade, we have witnessed the dismantling of services in the NHS and a reduction in local authority and social security provisions that have left Disabled people struggling, even prior to the pandemic. It further led to Disabled women being subjected to having our rights to independent living and dignity of life eroded. This was exacerbated during the pandemic and we received little to no support from services run by the NHS, local authorities and social security. The lack of information on basic health matters such as shielding and vaccination have caused a great deal of confusion and stress. Notwithstanding the eugenicist deaths of countless of Disabled people and people of colour, it is our view that our struggle and destitution could have been avoided.  

Our briefing ‘The Impact of COVID 19 on Disabled Women from Sisters of Frida’ illustrates that most Disabled women are already on low income. We are more likely to provide domestic care, less likely to be employed, and are less financially independent. We also know that women do not all have the same life experiences and this needs to be reflected in policy making. For example, Disabled women of colour are disproportionately disadvantaged due to racism, disablism and sexism. Disabled lesbians face social exclusion from the LGBTQIA+ community and disability rights groups. While some data exists on some matters affecting Disabled women such as unemployment, intersecting identities such as race, class, sexuality and gender diversity are not taken into account. Therefore, when considering policy on disability issues, it is important that different Disabled women’s experiences are included. This report attempts to incorporate some intersectional depth to Disabled experiences of the pandemic. 


See the full report as a Word doc or a PDF

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Sisters of Frida’s Guide to Accessible Online communication – a Toolkit

Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2021


Disabled people have equal rights to participate fully in all aspects of life. However, we are often obstructed by lack of access, ignorance and poor attitudes. This isn’t simply an inconvenience for disabled people, it can be a matter of life or death.

Lack of access prevents us from having control over our lives and is a stark reminder to disabled people that our rights and our value as human beings can be so easily disregarded.

Accessible and inclusive environments for disabled people create a better experience for everyone. However, accessibility is rarely made standard unless non-disabled people recognise that it benefits them too – for example, dropped kerbs and step-free access that improves access for parents with prams, and the recent dramatic increase in subtitled videos online.

If disabled people are not expected and not thought about from the start, then the resulting design or format will exclude people who may wish to take part and have a right to do so. 

Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, disabled and non-disabled people alike, have increased their online communications, through a range of platforms. Accessible information and inclusive communication is important for everyone but it is especially vital for our independent living. It also makes it possible for us to chat, campaign and communicate with our peers, friends, family and colleagues, nationally and internationally.

Screenshot of an online meeting using Google Meet by International Network of Women with Disabilities with live captioning. Participants were from Mexico, Australia, USA and UK.
Description: 5 women in an online platform, text from the close caption reads Tricia Malowney ” bit. We share the load a little bit and if we can just keep chipping away so we can convince the feminist movement. That we are part of their community. We are not an add-on that everything that they do..”

This document provides information on disabled people’s rights and the action you can take to create accessible and inclusive information and events online. This is not an exhaustive guide but we have tried to add resources from around the world. There are many online platforms for events and meetings and we have not covered all these but reference some throughout.

In this toolkit, we added the importance of realising our rights as well as following the Social Model of Disability with the accessibility aspects. We hope it will be useful and do drop us a line if other information or tips can be added at hello@sisofrida.org.

The toolkit is available here as a Word document

Sisters of Frida’s Guide to Accessible Online communication – a Toolkit

and as a PDF

Sisters of Frida’s Guide to Accessible Online communication – a Toolkit

We thank London Community Foundation for the funding to make this possible. And Dr Natasha Hirst @HirstPhotos and Eleanor Lisney @e_lisney for researching and writing this toolkit.