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Bringing disabled women together, mobilising
and sharing through lived experiences

We call out the UK Government at the UN

I proudly joined other Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations today at the UN in Geneva for the formal review of the Government’s implementation of the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Sarah meets the Chairperson of the UNCRPD, Professor Theresia Degener


After months of collaboration with the other DPOs (including the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance of which we’re a member) we delivered our presentation today. Painfully we had to prioritise only a cluster of issues. I spoke on Art 13 (Access to Justice) and managed to raise our concerns about the defence to coercive abuse offences.

In the brief Q&A, pleasingly two members asked questions about disabled women and girls: 1) what cases are there of women having their children removed from them by social services and 2) tell us about Sarah Reed case.

We will be writing to these members with full responses.

I managed to observe some of Latvia’s session later in the day to see how our UK inquiry might look later this week. It was good to see more questions asked about disabled women and girls and, a robust and direct question requiring a response, from the Chairperson herself.

At this point there was a 15 minute break and I was fortunate enough to meet the Chairperson, Professor Theresia Degener for a coffee. She is the only woman on the Committee.

We discussed s76 Serious Crime Act and she confirmed she could see why we are concerned that the defence for carers to controlling abuse disproportionately puts disabled women and people with learning disabilities at risk. Lawyer to lawyer we looked at the subjective nature of this provision – i.e. It is sufficient for the perpetrator to believe the abuse was in the victim’s “best interests”, not an objective view.

We also discussed access to medical care (including reproductive and sexual health services) and the impact of welfare reform on disabled women.

Professor Degener was keen to take my papers with her, so fingers crossed, the issues are raised in the review.

Sarah preparing to present with DPO colleagues in the session


– Sarah Rennie, Steering Group

Join our steering group!

No vacancies at the moment.

Steering Group strategy workshop – May 2017

Why Sisters of Frida?

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) :

Facebook page :

Instagram: @sisters_of_frida

Twitter: @sisofrida

Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory

This article, quoted in part here, is for all those women who have ‘invisible disabilities’ who is surviving with chronigue pain and illnesses. We feel what she wrote here will resonate with many sisters. Thank you Johanna Hedva and Mask magazine

You can read the rest of the article at the Mask Magazine website

With all of these visitors, I started writing Sick Woman Theory as a way to survive in a reality that I find unbearable, and as a way to bear witness to a self that does not feel like it can possibly be “mine.”

The early instigation for the project of “Sick Woman Theory,” and how it inherited its name, came from a few sources. One was in response to Audrey Wollen’s “Sad Girl Theory,” which proposes a way of redefining historically feminized pathologies into modes of political protest for girls: I was mainly concerned with the question of what happens to the sad girl when, if, she grows up. Another was incited by reading Kate Zambreno’s fantastic Heroines, and feeling an itch to fuck with the concept of “heroism” at all, and so I wanted to propose a figure with traditionally anti-heroic qualities – namely illness, idleness, and inaction – as capable of being the symbol of a grand Theory. Another was from the 1973 feminist book Complaints and Disorders, which differentiates between the “sick woman” of the white upper class, and the “sickening women” of the non-white working class.

Sick Woman Theory is for those who are faced with their vulnerability and unbearable fragility, every day, and so have to fight for their experience to be not only honored, but first made visible. For those who, in Audre Lorde’s words, were never meant to survive: because this world was built against their survival. It’s for my fellow spoonies. You know who you are, even if you’ve not been attached to a diagnosis: one of the aims of Sick Woman Theory is to resist the notion that one needs to be legitimated by an institution, so that they can try to fix you. You don’t need to be fixed, my queens – it’s the world that needs the fixing


woman in a vivid red dress on a wheelchair holding a stick on her right hand

photo by Pamila Payne; Styling, hair and makeup: Myrrhia Rodriguez; Art Direction: Johanna Hedva

Johanna Hedva (@bighedva) is an anticapitalist psychonaut sorceress who lives in Los Angeles, where she’s from. She is the writer/director of The Greek Cycle, a series of feminist-ed and queered Ancient Greek plays; and the author of The Crow and the Queen, a novel published in limited-edition handmade hardcovers; Incunabula, a series of 103 fables with each fable published in its own handwritten book; My Cellar Doors, a book of poetry written on Salonpas pain patches; and Permanent Winter, a book made to be buried in the ice of Antarctica. This article is an excerpt from the forthcoming This Earth, Our Hospital (Sick Woman Theory and Other Writings).