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Bringing disabled women together, mobilising
and sharing through lived experiences

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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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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.

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Webinar launch:

Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2021


Disabled women’s perspectives on Independent Living during the pandemic 

6.30-8pm Friday 21st May 2021

We are pleased to announce the launch of our ground-breaking research 
into the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled women.  
Building on our briefing on disabled women and the pandemic, this 
research (funded by the Smallwood Trust and National Lottery 
Community Fund) will support us to create solutions and lobby for 
change. Through focus groups, it collects together a wide variety of 
intersectional disabled women’s experiences and concerns, most of which are made invisible in policy-making and society. The aim is to support us to make independent living a reality for everyone.

Come to our webinar where we will be discussing our findings with 
brilliant panellists : msunnia, Rachel O’Brien, Tumu Johnson, Dennis Queen and Martha Foulds. Dennis will also perform one of her songs for us.

Panelists

Brown woman with white rimmed glasses lying on grass. Text reads ''''I stand with Palestine'

msunnia is a queer crip feminist, with a background in campaigns and organising. msunnia is also the co-organiser of Criposium, a symposium on disability and intersectionality.

Rachel O’Brien is a member of the Sisters of Frida steering group. Her day job is doing public affairs for a Disabled People’s Organisation and campaigning to improve the rights of Disabled people. She is also a workplace rep for Unite the Union.

Blonde white woman with dark rimmed glasses, smiling with dimples

Martha Foulds is a disability rights activist living in Sheffield. She is currently a university student and helps co-ordinate the Sheffield Transgender Solidarity Network.

white woman with punish hair playing a guitar

Mx Dennis Queen is a queer, disabled musician based in Manchester. She has been involved in the disabled people’s movement for 20+ years campaigning, performing and volunteering at disabled people’s organisations. As well as being a panelist, Dennis will perform a piece for us.

young black woman smiling broadly into camera with fuzzy hair.

Tumu Johnson is a mental health worker and group facilitator with experience of working in front line support services, research and community organising. She is currently studying for a Masters in Mental Health Studies whilst working in the NHS and also provides freelance training around mental health and wellbeing.

Tumu, from the Sisters of Frida’s Steering Group, will be chairing the webinar.

Registration

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_L8n-LWm2R3WlYj7z2VnXzQ

BSL interpretation and captioning will be provided at this meeting, and 
it will also be livestreamed to Youtube.

We hope to see you there!

email : hello@sisofrida.org
twitter : @sisofrida #sofvoices

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For International Women’s Month: Disabled Women’s digital quilt

Posted on Friday, March 12th, 2021


This is a pilot project which was filmed / videoed pre pandemic in 2019 first presented by Culture Access at the Disabled and Proud Festival in Woolwich showcasing disability art and culture – a project in progress.

Building on the strong history of women’s activism, disabled women took taking photos of themselves/ or with help using smart phones to (re)create identities of themselves with selfies. Natasha Hirst took part and documented the women’s process and we created self-explanatory videos relating to their identities – as artists, as trade unionists, as activists, activists and journalists etc.

This is also a creative process that is inspired by Frida Kahlo’s work in her portrayal of impairment in identity.

Pilot project by Natasha Hirst and Eleanor Lisney .

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Making Space for Trauma

Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2021


***trigger warning*** medical and surgical trauma.

‘Making Space for Trauma’ is an ongoing series of digital collages and drawings, in which I use both found and personal images to re-contextualise recent medical traumas. This is a process I have found necessary to make space for and work through these trauma’s. In my experience as a young women with a chronic and rare condition and a history of medically documented trauma I have been frequently gaslight by medical professionals and having a history of trauma has often stood in the way of an accurate diagnosis and adequate care. On the flip side of this the trauma of not being believed, of being sick and of having to fight so hard for medical care has been completely overlooked by Western biomedical institutes which have not taken account of how traumatising being a patient can be. 

Passive Power
Description: Striking contrast of black and white picture of 6 seated women with white nurses’ caps and white uniforms , one in a darker uniform. There is one suited man seated with crossed arms. None of the faces are visible . The only colour is provided by the view from an open window displaying a vibrant sky with a twirl of colours.
ICU
description: Black background with a multitude of bright lights (space) with random 4 bigger white lights. A floating (female) face in shades of (milk chocolate) brown, a tube is attached to the nose. It falls down in a wide twist with 2 pennant like attached.
Its a struggle sometime…
description: Dark background with mauvish overtones in space, gets brighter under the curled up female form curled up with a red cloth with knees drawn up. She has a black vest and black undergarment. Her feet touch on seemingly, a blue gleaming crystal. Her head is on 2 red pillows.
Mr Surgeon
description: 3 figures in dark green surgical costumes. They are bending over, one with a scalpel in hand. Only the person in the middle has a face, the other 2 faces are integrated into the background – a dark mauvish space with small dots. A circle hangs like a light on the operating table but it has a white marble sheen with blood colour streaks. The person in the middle has the only face, bespectacled with a mask.
Making space for trauma
description: figure in a stretcher covered with white sheet, arms and face is hollowed out as space.. There are tubes attached and a breathing tube.

Charlie Fitz (she/her/they) is a sick and disabled artist, writer and medical humanities postgraduate. Her multiform projects explore experiences of illness, whilst aiming to resist and challenge the expectation that the ‘sick’ be patient or passive to medical paternalisms. She utilises photography, collage, digital and material forms in her work, exploring the boundaries between the creative, the academic and the activist. She is an exhibited artist and has had various written and visual work published in magazines, journals and zines.  See and learn more about her work at:www.sickofbeingpatient.comTwitter @CharlieJLFitzInstagram @CharlieJLFitz

This is part of the Sister Stories series.

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What It’s Like To Live With EDS (Because Clearly People Still Don’t Know)

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2021


Recently, I found out that a friend who shares my illness (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS)), a friend who was instrumental in my pursuit of diagnosis and proper treatment and who is a publicly visible advocate for disabled people, was being stalked by someone who accused them of “faking” and “has a friend who is writing an article about it.”

The “proof” that my friend is faking their illness? Sometimes they stand up to take selfies. Sometimes they go to see a band. They have tattoos even though EDS affects the skin.

In short, they do things that most people with EDS do, when we can. We can’t always, but when we can, we post about it online because this is the life we want people to see us living. Because we can’t tweet about our aches and dislocations and accessibility nightmares all day. No one would want to be friends if we did that, and we know it. So we cultivate carefully, and try to show as many “good days” as possible, even if a good day only lasts three minutes.

Sometimes I save pictures and stories instead of posting them right away. I wait for a day when I can’t leave my bed, so I’ll have something to talk about while I’m applying ice packs and heating pads and medications. The pressure to seem normal and fun is enormous. I am working with fewer materials than most.

If you go around trying to poke holes in people’s stories of medical journeys, thinking that you know
what life is like for them and how it should look on the outside, I want you to imagine something for me.

Imagine you got a car for your eighteenth birthday.

The car looks good, but it has some problems. Sometimes the A/C quits. Sometimes it stalls. It pretty much always shudders and knocks, but you and your friends all get used to that. You hardly notice it anymore. Over time, though, you start to think that somebody rolled back the odometer on this beast; it seems to have more frequent and serious problems than your friends’ cars. When you take it into a mechanic, it’s never just the brake pads that need replacing, it’s always the discs. The mechanic seems
a little baffled by your old-new car. They’re still happy to charge you, though.

You can’t afford a new car, and you can’t really afford to keep taking this one into the shop, either, so you go through a lot of duct tape and Bondo. You learn to do some work on it yourself, even though you don’t have all the tools. You spend a lot of time washing it and touching up paint to make it look presentable. Once in a while, someone compliments you on it, and you’re a little baffled because you know how it runs, but they don’t, so you smile and thank them.

At some point, you decide that even though your car is unreliable, you want to take a trip out of town. It breaks down in the driveway. You stay home and don’t mention your disappointment to anyone.

When you take it back to the mechanic, he says things are getting worse and will be even more expensive to fix now, but you don’t have a choice. You get the worst of it fixed. And still, it rattles and shakes and the driver’s side doors won’t lock and sometimes it breaks down for no reason.

Now imagine you can never get out of the car.


There is never a reason to interrogate a stranger about their disability.

Rachel Sharp is an author, activist, and lifetime member of the Somewhat Eccentric Persons Club.
She lives with chronic illness, plays ukulele, and tries to save the planet

This is part of the Sister Stories series.

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Independent Living Project

Posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020


We are excited to announce we are starting a independent living project – on what it means to disabled women – with thanks to the Smallwood Trust and the National Lottery Community Fund

From January to March 2021, we will be focusing on asking disabled women on how they regard independent living, how they access it to help them achieve resilience through the pandemic and beyond. Are there solutions – how do we connect with each other for peer support and influence policy in bringing our voices together and forging a different future for ourselves.

We will have a webinar and focus groups using online platforms while there are constraints of COVID19 and using other accessible means of communication. We hope to have videos and will explore possibilities together.

Alice Armstrong (coordinator, alice@sisofrida.org) and Manishta (researcher, manishta@sisofrida.org) will be working with us on this project.

Please do take part in this project as independent living is important to all of us as disabled women, whatever our impairment.

Email for questions on this project hello@sisofrida.org,
twitter @sisofrida

community fund logo
smallwood trust logo

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16 days of activism: Million Women Rise Vigil

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020


We thank EVAW and Million Women Rise for adding us to the “Never Forgotten Vigil.”

Let us not forget. In #solidarity

See also the Safe Lives report on Disabled people and domestic abuse

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Disability History Month and International Day of Disabled People: The intersection of being Disabled and a person of Colour

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020


We are collaborating with Culture Access to interview some people on intercessions: being people of colour and disabled and more. Does Disability History include our disabled voices/stories? It is good that DPOs have had events for Black History Month and impact for Disabled Black people but there are many other stories in solidarity.

See what Nila Gopal has to say on this topic

Nila Gopal

Eleanor Lisney spoke on the complexity of being intersectional – including of being a disabled woman of South /East Asian origin.

Eleanor Lisney

Sarifa Patel spoke on being a disabled Asian mother of colour

Sarifa Patel

There are more people to interview. We think its also good for the International day of Disabled people on the 3rd December. And to beyond those dates really to continue the voices of Disabled people of colour.

See the other videos at the Culture Access website, meanwhile here are the ones to date

Annabel Crowley

Shura Davey

James Lee

Fazilet Hadi

Aminder Virdee

Wishing everybody happy celebrations for the International Day of Disabled people (People with Disabilities)!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logos-GLLSOF.jpg

with thanks from support from the Woolwich Centre Library and in collaboration with Culture Access

Funded by the Isla Foundation