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Can You Help Shape the Future of Sisters of Frida?

We need a new steering group to decide where we go next

Sisters of Frida is unique. We are the only collective of disabled women and non-binary people in the country. We create a space for disabled women and non-binary people that DDPOs don’t provide – in fact, nowhere else provides it.

Sisters of Frida formed from a need for disabled women to have a voice within the wider women’s and disabled people’s movements. We are led by ideals and strong principles.

We build community, a space where we want to lift ourselves and each other up, to centre us in thought and action, to celebrate ourselves with pride, to amplify our voices, to share our skills, to challenge power and privilege, and to pursue avenues of change for disabled women and non-binary people. We are a diverse movement committed to an intersectional approach to our work and collective liberation. We’ve impacted national and international conversations about disabled women within both the feminist and disability rights movements. We are committed to radical politics and cross-movement solidarity work.

Like many communities and organisations, the pandemic (and life, more generally) has stretched the capacity of the current directors to its limit. But more importantly, movements can’t flourish without change and evolution. Sisters of Frida needs new energies, directions, ideas, drive, and most importantly, people.

Our new steering group will decide where we go next. We want you to be a part of it.

Previous priority areas have included combating violence against disabled women and girls, and disability and sexuality. Most recently, we’ve conducted research on the impact of the pandemic on disabled women and gender non-conforming people. In all these areas, we’ve shaped conversations nationally and internationally to centre the rights and experiences of disabled women and non-binary people. We’ve often been one of the very few groups speaking from and for these perspectives.

Our future priorities will be up to you.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but we know there are voices that have been missing from the conversations we’ve been part of that we haven’t been able to represent. Similarly, we as a community have mutually built and shared skills and knowledge necessary to sustain our efforts but we’ve also learnt that there are other strengths needed to take Sisters of Frida even further.

We are looking for up to 8 people to form Sisters of Frida’s new steering group, to decide our next directions and develop our new organisational strategy. We’re looking to ensure Sisters of Frida can continue and is sustainable.

To do that, we need people with a diverse array of experience, formal or informal, including around fundraising, finance, strategic planning and organisational development.

If you think you can help shape the future of Sisters of Frida we’d love to hear from you.

To find out more about applying to be part of our new steering group, you can find our application documents linked below. They’re available in plain text and easy read format.

What can you expect from the Application process?

  • We will close submissions at 5:00pm on 3rd March 2024.
  • If you have any questions at any point in the application process, you can get in contact via sisofrida@gmail.com.
  • Responses from one of our part-time workers will come as soon as possible, on Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • After submissions are closed, we will be in contact shortly afterwards to arrange access for interviews.

More information and to apply

Background to Sisters of Frida

Steering group call out

Application information

Art piece by Eleanor Parkes

a white lace piece, of an insect
a white lace piece, of an insect
a white lace piece, selfie
a white lace piece, selfie

She can be found on Instagram @e.j.parkes

With gratitude for sharing with us

Article by Simone Aspis

I will just begin by introducing myself before setting out my position on Heidi Crowter’s court case, the legal challenge to the Abortion Act on disability discrimination and human rights grounds. Heidi Crowter is currently applying to have her case heard by the European Court of Human Rights after the Supreme Court have refused permission to appeal during May 2023.

I am firstly a disabled feminist who identifies herself as a member of the LBGTQAI+ community. And yes I am Jewish and Yes I am a paid up member of a progressive synagogue and Queer Yeshiva. Nope I am not a pro-lifer or anti-abortion either. I have spent the past 25 years fighting for disabled peoples’ rights across a whole range of issues, anti-disability discrimination, human rights, inclusive education, independent living and medical ethics at the beginning and end of life whilst working for various disabled peoples led organisations and campaigns. I have also been involved in developing the BCODP’s bioethics training pack as well. If you would like to know more about myself click https://www.simoneaspis.co.uk/.

Whilst I no longer support Heidi herself because disability equality has been used to peddle anti-abortion agenda, nevertheless the principle of promoting non-disability discrimination or more broadly non-trait discrimination throughout reproductive decision making is one that needs further debate, and it should not be simply argued away by a woman’s pro-choice rights to abortion. Heidi’s court case raises a bigger question, which is to what extent is it a pregnant woman’s right to choose the traits of her child to be born.

For me there are two very distinct questions that arises from Heidi Crowter’s court case.

The first one is, should a woman have a right to an abortion if she/they do not want children per sue for whatever reason? My answer is a definite Yes.

My second question is, do individual women have the right to decide the human traits of a future child to be born? My answer is No.

Human traits selection of a future child covers disability, race, sex and other traits viewed generally as being desirable or undesirable by our society. Male, white and non-disabled are valued traits of children society generally values. On the other hand female, colour and disabled are not valued traits of children society generally values.

I do not think it should be for pregnant women to make the decisions about the type of future child they want to give birth to. Such decisions have an impact upon the future of our society and the constitution and diversity of any subsequent populations.

States have tried to strengthen the position of women that includes access to education alongside providing financial incentives to positively encourage women to give births to female children who otherwise would had been aborted. In the global South, states have offered financial inducements to encourage the birth of more female babies as they are considered as a drain on family finances. Whilst, feminists have contested the status of girls and religious traditions (including financial customs), such challenges are insufficient to deal with the in-trenched view of women within patriarchal societies that
continue to favour males. One of the unintended consequences is that individual women who decide to give birth to a male baby, think through what would be best for themselves and their individual family unit. I do not expect individual women to consider the cumulative impact of individual women making similar decisions elsewhere in choosing the sex of their child. I have the expectation that the state may well need to intervene to ensure that there is a sufficient diversity reflected within our population. So, the state does have a role in ensuring there is no skewing of male births by making sex-selection abortion unlawful with the aim of maintaining appropriate sex ratios that allows for population replacement and growth. Whatever reproductive technologies are used, there is no getting away from the need to have both male and female births to ensure that the human population exists.

So where does this leave disability because one can argue that there is no need to have disabled people, like you need women and men to guarantee the continuation of the humankind. Not only do we need a society to reflect biological sex diversity, but also one that encompasses individuals with a diversity of human traits including those with physical, sensory and intellectual abilities. After all, we need a population consisting of individuals with a whole range of human traits to have a functioning society. Society is not going to function if we do not have those with all sorts of traits that encourages caring,
artistry, paying attention to detail when it comes to health and safety alongside the accountants, lawyers and all the other roles that are needed and where some of those human traits are commonly (not exclusively) associated with a disability diagnosis.

Despite disabled people having all sorts of human traits needed to create a healthy diverse society, we know there is a very high rate of disability-related abortions because women are too aware of the disablist environment that makes bringing up disabled children a big challenge when there is minimal support systems in place and where everything is deemed to be a struggle. Even if we have all the incentives and a brilliant inclusive systems in place I do not believe that alone would encourage the birth of disabled babies. Just like with the incentives for raising female birth rates, such incentives do not
necessarily encourage women to raise and give birth to disabled babies. Just like with women who opt for sex-selection abortion, they are thinking what is best for themselves and their families. Like with sex selection I do not expect women to consider the cumulative impact of individual women who are making the same decision to terminate disabled babies. So, if we accept individual women’s right to select the human traits of their child is a private matter, then that removes society’s response to our population skewing towards a future without disabled children such as Downs Syndrome or Autism with associated types of human traits. If we view that abortion is simply a woman’s right and nothing else, then we move eugenics from the public to the private sphere that goes beyond public debate and state intervention to ensure we have diverse future population. A population reflecting individuals with diversity of human traits would require state intervention, hence making human trait selection abortion unlawful. If I remember rightly, one of the arguments used by the Conservative Party for not needing anti-disability discrimination laws back in the early 1990s is that we can rely on education, persuasion and good will to ensure disabled peoples inclusion is promoted, even during the time when services were better funded than they are currently. It took the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation, the Disability Discrimination Act, now the Equality Act to bring about change that viewing disabled people and disability equality as a rights based issue.

My position is supported by the UN Convention Rights Of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD and Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) committees that do not support human trait selection abortion, in this case sex and disability.

There are a number of ethical questions that we need to debate by disabled women.

  • What type of society do we want to live in?
  • Who should decide on the type of society we will have, which will impact upon the present and future populations.
  • Should any section of our population become sole decision makers about the kind of future society? I.E. Pregnant women in this case?

By Simone Aspis (Changing Perspectives)

Treasure

A wheat pillow. Chocolate. A cuddly toy. Jewellery. Homemade dinner. Artwork. Clothes. Books. Mugs.

These are some of the material gifts I have received from other disabled people over the past few years. Having pre-made dinner ready to go when you don’t feel well is brilliant, and wearing clothes and jewellery from someone you might not have been able to see in a while feels like being closer to them, somehow.

Good jokes. Bad jokes. Listening. Laughing. Sitting silently side by side. Heckling politicians side by side. Motivation. Backup. Interesting challenges. Opportunities. Protection. Genuine caring. Harsh truths. Acceptance. Understanding. The quest for knowledge, and the relay between those who know and those who need to know. Pockets of peace.

These are some of the non-material gifts I have received from other disabled people over the past few years. These are more important. Knowing that you won’t be ridiculed or punished for who you are allows you to figure it out, if you’ve not had that opportunity. Joining in the fight for legal rights to be upheld and extended is much easier when you’re not fighting alone.

Last year, I had a health issue which required use of a new device for a few weeks. I didn’t have much knowledge, and it had been attached to my body in a way that did not work. Another disabled person sent me a video of how it should work and what they thought had happened. I was sleep-deprived, in pain, feeling awful, and not able to concentrate. They explained everything step by step, patiently, in clear language with a calm and caring voice, without judgement or shame for me not knowing something so simple. It felt like a hug. If I could download how to do that into the brains of every NHS professional, it’d be wonderful. It’s easier to get used to something new when someone with lived experience can talk you through.

A friend made me cry last night. We don’t speak often, as one or the other of us might have a last-minute disaster or just not have the energy. WhatsApp and Messenger just have to do in between. We laughed about recent news, and talked about something personal. She remembered the context that I’d told her a long time before, and spoke of it in a caring tone. To hear something understood and cared about that I’ve had to defend against people who don’t believe it was wonderful.

These things are more valuable, and I treasure these memories.

Take care of each other. You will be treasured.

by Anonymous

Social meetings after lockdown

Sisters of Frida had 2 social meetings this year. We will be having 2 more next year. The meetings are generally to meet as disabled women in London, about SOF, and for us to get to know each other. Please send an email to Eventadmin@sisofrida.org to register an interest.

Photo below of the first meeting in North Greenwich

Group of women around a table, some in wheelchairs
supported by Mayor of London logo

A Tribute to Lisa Ellwood

head shot of a woman of colour. She has black curly hair and eye make up on.
Photograph of Lisa

Lisa passed away on May 11, 2023. She was only 57. I was shocked and saddened by the news. Though we had never physically met, we had many long conversations on the phone. I was hoping to meet her one day in Edinburgh when she moved there from rural Wales. She gave me encouragement and solidarity on being a disabled woman of colour and gave me lessons on intersectionality. She told me of the discrimination she faced from some disabled people here not because she was a Native American but because she was also autistic, with mental health issues and not afraid to speak out about suicide or domestic violence. She inspired me with her passion for disability rights and taught me to embrace my different identities. She was strong – a feminist warrior – in spite of being hampered by her disability and impairments.

She was also a strong supporter of Sisters of Frida and was in the Steering Group for a short while. She helped in getting news about us at the UN CRPD and CEDAW in Geneva. She believed strongly in having a voice/platform for disabled women and helped us in every capacity. This is her profile in LinkedIn:

A strong communicator with a distinctive voice, Lisa J. Ellwood is an Autistic Lenape and Nanticoke Native American currently resident in the UK.

Ms. Ellwood is a Freelance Journalist & Writer and an active member of the Native American Journalists Association, Investigative Reporters & Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Union of Journalists (UK). She has a B.A. Degree from Temple University with a major in Journalism and Advertising and minors in Marketing & French. Her specializations include Data Journalism & Visualization, NDN Country, Disability Rights, Mental Illness and Autism.

Lisa’s Disability Rights & UK Politics blog, The Creative Crip, has been featured in Society Guardian many times. She was a freelance Correspondent for Indian Country Today Media Network from September 2015 until its hiatus from active operations September 2017 as well as a Contributing Editor and Features Writer for The Promota Africa Magazine. In September 2011 the Left Foot Forward Political Blog cited her effective use of social media and blogging in its “Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker: The disabled rights community”​ feature. She has also been interviewed for Grazia Magazine (Australia) & appeared on radio shows internationally including Native Trailblazers.

We miss her.

Here are tributes from her colleagues:

written by Eleanor Lisney

Sister Stories: Sisters of Frida submission call-out

We’re excited to announce a call-out for the new Sisters of Frida blog series, and we need your help!

This ongoing blog project is for you and will be shaped by you, the Sisters of Frida community. It will be an online space to share your experiences, stories and creativity, and help us to create a digital sisterhood and archive of disabled women’s voices.


We want to showcase work by writers and artists living with chronic illness, mental illness, and disability. Your work doesn’t need to be about those experiences exclusively, but we welcome and encourage submissions along those lines.

We’re looking for contributions of things that inspire you, this can include non-fiction, fiction, poems, illustrations, photographs, essays, reviews, etc.

Here are some quotes we like:

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

“Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.” – Unknown



If you’d like to contribute: 
  • Send all submissions with the subject SISTER STORIES: *TITLE OF PIECE* to sisofrida@gmail.com
  • Please include a short third-person bio and your pronouns, but if you’d like to remain anonymous, that’s fine! Just let us know. If you also want to include a brief background about the piece, please feel free to do so.
  • Attach submissions to your email in an accessible format.

  • Non-fiction, essays, reviews should be no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Poetry/Artwork – Please submit no more than 5 individual pieces.
  • Languages: We welcome submissions in any language but please provide a translation if possible.

The blog will be updated monthly, so expect a calendar’s worth of stories! The frequency may increase depending on the number of submissions.

If you have an idea but need a bit of direction, let us know! We can work through it together, and help to guide whatever it is you’re creating. Just email sisofrida@gmail.com

* Sisters of Frida is an inclusive safe space for all self-identifying and non-binary disabled women. We do not tolerate sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia or other forms of discrimination based on sexuality, age, gender expression, religion, education or socio-economic status.

Jennifer Brough is the curator of this set of stories/blog.

Sister Stories
Sister Stories
youngish looking white woman with long hair smiling into the camera
Jennifer Brough @Jennifer_Brough

Jennifer is a writer and editor who lives with fibromyalgia and endometriosis. She is involved in projects at the Feminist Library and seeks to amplify the voices and experiences of self-identifying women.
She is learning Spanish and dreaming of visiting Frida’s house in Mexico, so is very happy to be part of the Sisters of Frida commu
nity.

First photos and some videos from the celebratory event on 4th May

Our celebratory event was a great success – thank you very much for those who did make it and thank you too for those who sent messages / videos because they couldn’t make it.

Sisters of Frida celebatory event 4th May 2018 Greenwich Yacht Club. Filmed by Lucy Fyson and edited by Leonore Schick. Music from TRG Banks – Milton Milton.

photos taken by Wasi Daniju at the event are at the SOF flickr account but to give you an idea….

People seated in a very well lit room with full length windows with tent like white canopies overhead. lots of wooden floor space

At Greenwich Yacht Club photo by Ruth Gardiner, Chocolate Films

Invite to Sisters of Frida’s celebration May 4th 5.30pm Greenwich Yacht Club

I N V I T A T I O N Please come to our celebrations 4th May 2018 from 5.30 pm Greenwich Yacht Club 1 Peartree Way, Greenwich, London SE10 0BW (nearest tube station North Greenwich, Jubilee Line, accessible venue. Please let us know other access needs) http://greenwichweddingvenues.co.uk/ We will be celebrating the work of our peer lead facilitators project And remembering our sisters, Sophie Partridge and Eleanor Firman, in setting up a memorial fund in their names. Please RSVP to hello@sisofrida.org and let us know your access needs. Non alcoholic drinks will be served but there is a bar if you wish to buy your own drinks. Some snacks will be served

 

I N V I T A T I O N

Please come to our celebrations

4th May 2018 from 5.30 pm



Greenwich Yacht Club

1 Peartree Way, Greenwich, London SE10 0BW

(nearest tube station North Greenwich, Jubilee Line, accessible venue. Please let us know other access needs)

http://greenwichweddingvenues.co.uk/

We will be celebrating the work of our peer lead facilitators project

And remembering our sisters, Sophie Partridge and Eleanor Firman, in setting up a memorial fund in their names.

Please RSVP to hello@sisofrida.org and let us know your access needs.

There will be BSL interpreters


Non alcoholic drinks will be served but there is a bar if you wish to buy your own drinks. Some snacks will be served

Letter and Response in regard to question on s.76 Serious Crime Act 2015

The following is a letter we wrote to Maria Miller MP (and Jess Phillips MP)

Responses to the letter below are available to download as a PDF.

16 January 2018

Dear Ms Miller (and Ms Phillips),

On Oct 26 2017, you met one of our founders, Eleanor Lisney, at Bringing Women’s Voices into the Heart of Government , Women Resource Centre, House of Common. She mentioned our concerns about the defence to controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship under s.76 Serious Crime Act 2015. You asked her if we would put this in writing to you.

You will be familiar with the offence. We welcome its introduction for all victims of abuse but it is specifically important to disabled women because:

  • Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled women;
  • Disabled women are disproportionately more likely to be trapped in emotionally abusive relationships and/or households where their ‘carers’ receive financial benefits as a result of the victim’s disability; and
  • [ethnicity/cultural risk element?]
  1. Content of s.76(8)

In light of the high risks for disabled women, we are therefore very concerned that s.76(8) states that it is a defence to show that:

(a) [the accused] believed that he or she was acting in [the victim’s] best interests, and

(b) the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.

We understand that the defence was intended to protect carers. Notwithstanding disabled women have a heightened need for the protection of s.76, we pose the follow questions:

  1. Once the case for ‘abuse’ has been made out, why is a defence necessary?
  2. S.76(8)(b) is an objective test of reasonableness, but s.76(8)(a) is subjective and wholly irrelevant. Does the Government believe that abuse is permissible if the perpetrator believed it was acceptable?
  1. Application of s.76(8)

Turning to the application of this defence, what guidance has been provided to judges? There is a serious risk that cultural stereotypes may wrongly influence the judiciary eg that disabled people need ‘care’, that disabled people need guidance from others, that a carer is a ‘good, kind and selfless person’. In her report the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, noted that the justice system is ‘widely perceived to be biased in favour of men’ and that disabled women in particular may be subjected to stereotypes that infantilise them.

  1. Consultation on s.76(8)

Our fourth question is to what extent were disabled women consulted on s.76 and its defence?

You will be aware that last Summer, the UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published its concluding observations1 following its first review of the UK government’s compliance with the Convention. The Committee frequently noted that disabled women and girls’ rights “have not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agenda”. We fear that s.76(8) demonstrates this.

Once you have had a chance to consider the issues, we should be grateful for a response to our questions and to hear whether you intend to take further action.

Yours faithfully,

eleanor

Eleanor Lisney

Co founder/coordinator

hello@sisofrida.org

Sisters of Frida CIC

@sisofrida

United House,

North Road, London, N7 9DP

At #WOWLDN Festival 2018

There were quite a few disabled women at the Women of the World London Festival 2018, some of whom were connected to Sisters of Frida.

Here is Nidhi Goyal’s keynote speech at the Power & Protest: Art, Activism and Disability panel for Sisters of Frida

subtitles/captions to follow soon

here are the photos of the event from the Sisters of Frida’s Flickr account

and at the instagram account

CEDAW: asking for help from disabled women

more information on CEDAW on SOF website

and on the Women Resource Centre

WRC contact:     Simma Rai cedaw@wrc.org.uk

SOF contact :  hello@sisofrida.org

—————————————–

Our aim

The Government has to tell the United Nations about women’s rights in the UK.

 

We are collecting experiences from women across England to give to the United Nations. They will use these when they question the UK Government.

 

We want to be sure that disabled women are included. This report will reinforced what DDPOs wrote to the UNCPRD committee in last year’s examination in Geneva. But we will focus more on disabled women and girls’ issues.

 

Please tell us:

  • What the problems are, in your own words – we are interested in your personal experiences
  • Links to any evidence (research reports if you have them)
  • what the government has/has not done since the last time it reported in 2013, and
  • your recommendations for what needs to be done.

NB we are reporting on the period from 2013 to date.

 

We can only give a very short report to the United Nations – only 6,600 words!

We are interested in any information you can give us. Some of the areas that the UN will look at include:

 

 

  • Trafficking and Prostitution               
  • Healthcare – how the NHS supports accessibility of healthcare for disabled women
  • Political and Public Life – whether disabled women are properly represented
  • Economic and Social Benefits  – social security payments, universal credit, PIP etc
  • Rural Women – the special needs of women outside towns and cities including public transport, slow wifi speeds and access to disability services
  • Nationality  – special needs of disabled migrant women
  • Equality Before the Law – are disabled women equal?
  • Education – access to schools, colleges and university for disabled women and girls
  • Marriage and Family Life – disabled women’s rights to a family life
  • Employment – access to good quality work, and support to work (Access to Work)
  • Violence Against Women and Girls – particular problems for disabled women, for example, domestic violence, or such violence against disabled women

 

 

Your evidence will be published unless you tell us otherwise.

Let us know if you want:

☐ EITHER your evidence to be completely confidential, OR

☐ to be shared with the Equality and Human Rights Commission only.

 

Timescale

The deadline for evidence and information is 28 February 2018. Send your evidence to: cedaw@wrc.org.uk

There is more information here

General information – https://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/our-work/cedaw/

The Government’s own report is here –  http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fGBR%2f8&Lang=en

 

The last shadow report from women’s groups is here: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/GBR/INT_CEDAW_NGO_GBR_13333_E.pdf

 

If you have any questions please contact us.

Your experience

 

Any Links to Evidence? Yes/No

 

Has the Government taken action?

 

Your recommendations

 

CEDAW-shadow-report-template-for-written-evidence-from-disabled-women-final (Word doc. for downloading)
women resource centre logo

Sisters of Frida: Vision and Values

When we say “disabled women” we mean self-identifying disabled women, girls, and gender non-conforming people.

Our Vision  

A future in which disabled women are empowered, celebrated, informed, connected, valued and at the centre of society.

Our Mission

To make our vision a reality:

    • We create platforms that support opportunities to learn, share different experiences to increase our knowledge which enable us to challenge oppression and explore new possibilities
    • We speak out against abuse, injustice and discriminatory practices.
    • We fight for disabled women’s voices to be heard in diverse places of influence.
    • We don’t accept tokenism. We expect our allies to demonstrate meaningful engagement and commitment to securing disabled women’s liberation.
    • We embrace and celebrate our diversity by seeking out and highlighting the stories of disabled women from diverse intersectional backgrounds
    • We take opportunities to show how structures of oppression are connected and affect us all and call for their removal
    • We challenge unpaid labour of disabled women, strive for remuneration for our work and ensure our contributions are valued as individuals

Our Values and Ethical Principles

    • We are committed to the social model of disability and an intersectional approach to our oppressions and identities
    • We do not abuse or use our positions as a means to achieve
    • We are proud of who we are as disabled women and girls
    • We are committed to the continual process of challenging power and privileges, internally and externally
    • We believe in the self definition of identity and commit to not policing our identities
    • We expect accessibility and are creative, proactive and work in collaboration to achieve respectful and accessible spaces
    • We recognise, accept and challenge the oppressor within ourselves
    • We ensure credit is given to other disabled women for their ideas, involvement, contributions and work

Explanation of the logo: (logo designed and explained by Frieda Van de Poll)

The Kolibri or Hummingbird is a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible. For the native Americans, the bird is a symbol of rebirth, and of resurrection. It brings special messages for us, in its capacity of going in any direction; the only creature that can stop while traveling at full speed and the only bird that can fly backwards as well as forwards, up and down.

Frida had a special connection with this bird. She painted her eyebrows in the arc of the wings of the hummingbird, perhaps identifying herself with the extraordinary life skills of this colourful, tiny and vulnerable bird with the heart of an eagle. The logo is set in a stamp which fits the idea of the kolibri being a messenger… 

Why Sisters of Frida?

We took a long time deliberating on a name. We are disabled women but that is not our only identity – we are also embracing the whole package of being women and disabled. And we believe strongly in the social model of disability. We want to celebrate the difference of being of different ethnic origins, different cultures and nationalities, of different sexual orientation, of being mums, having partners and being single women. We are creative and our creativeness is born from our identities – of the very pain of being impaired and disabled at times. But we are not victims.

Hence we found a role model in Frida Kahlo. She is not one immediately associated with disability and yet her art was filled with images of the crippled body. She was also an activist and she wanted a life full of love, of relationships. In her art we also glimpse the dark landscape of her mental health in the aftermath of still births and in her stormy relationship with Diego Riveria.

We can strive to live our lives as full as she did

Sisters of Frida at Brussels ENIL Freedom Drive

Some Sisters of Frida went to ENIL 2017 Freedom Drive,  which brought together 300 Independent Living activists from 19 countries in Brussels.

Sisters of Frida behind the banner which says Sisters of Frida, Disabled Women's Collective. They are all wearing read teeshirts. Four wheelchair users.

Zara Todd, Lani Parker, Michelle Daley and Eleanor Lisney, and Rachel O’Brien (photo by Mladen Spremo)

It brought an an end to a week of promoting independent living, peer support, protest and celebration of disability rights. The Freedom Drive has brought together around 300 independent living activists from 19 countries, from as far East as Albania, to Norway in the North.

Among the main Freedom Drive demands were the end to institutionalisation of disabled people across Europe, access to personal assistance in all countries, full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the end to cuts to support services and benefits for disabled people.

Lani Parker and Michelle Daley said:

 

We also met some MEPs, Anthea McIntyre MEP, Keith Taylor MEP, Molly Scott-Cato MEP, Wajid Khan MEP, and Daniel Dalton MEP, among others to ask them questions on independent living, accessibility, inclusive education, disability rights after Brexit, freedom of labour as part of the EU among other issues.

with man in a squatting position, 3 women wheelchair users and one woman in front.

with Wajid Khan MEP (Labour), Rebecca Farren, Lani Parker, Tara Flood and Michelle Daley (photo by Katai)

2 wheelchair users (one  black woman and one white) at either end. 3 people on sofa, all white, one man 2 women)

Tweet from Molly Scott Cato MEP with Michelle Daley, (Green Party) Keith Taylor MEP, Molly Scott Cato MEP, Tara Flood and Lani Parker

The night before the march we met up with other British attendees for dinner, including Sarah Rennie (Sisters of Frida, Steering Group member) , who had to leave before the march.

People seated at table at restaurant

dinner with other British attendees of Freedom Drive (photo by Debbie)

people at dinner table at restaurant

dinner with other British attendees of Freedom Drive (2nd table) (photo by Debbie)

We were outside the European Parliament the next day to join the other ENIL Freedom marchers on the streets of Brussels.

Michelle (wearing the red tee ENIL teeshirt) with her hand raised up in a fist leading some of the procession

Michelle Daley leading some of the way. (photo by Katai)

Thank you all for all who came with us. Thank you for ENIL to organising this and we wish Zara Todd, as incoming director, the best for the future.

More photos at Sisters of Frida Flickr account.

Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us

The UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published its concluding observations following its first review of the UK government’s compliance with the Convention. We contributed to the report and went to Geneva, as volunteers, to ensure that violations of disabled women’s rights were given attention. The Committee highlighted many areas of concerns which explicitly or indirectly affect disabled women, but we’ve highlighted three key themes below.

 

1) Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us

 

We share the Committee’s concern that disabled women and girls’ rights “have not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agenda” and support its specific recommendation to “adopt inclusive and targeted measures, including disaggregated data” to prevent the multiple and intersectional discrimination we face.

 

Mainstreaming our rights, requires our involvement. We therefore also welcome the Committee’s recommendation to allocate “financial resources to support organisations representing [disabled women]” and develop mechanisms to ensure our involvement in planning and implementing law which affects our lives. For example, we were not consulted on the drafting of the coercive abuse offence in the Serious Crime Act. If we had, we would have been able to show how the ‘best interests’ defence for carers dangerously undermines the rights and safety of disabled women and people with learning disabilities.

 

Strategies need to be measured, financed and monitored. We therefore welcome the Committee’s recommendation for mechanisms to support our involvement in the design of strategies to implement the Convention through “measurable, financed and monitored strategic plans of action”. Measurability requires the collection of disaggregated data and this has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.

 

2) Multiple and Intersectional Discrimination

 

Disabled women experience sexism and dis/ableism in our everyday lives, along with many other forms of oppression (eg. based on age, sexual orientation, economic status and migrant status). Here’s an example to illustrate. A visually impaired woman cannot access information on an NHS website due to inaccessibility. This is disability discrimination, but is gender-neutral. However, lack of access to family planning services is clearly gender and disability discrimination. If she is actually a teenage girl living in a remote indigenous community, clearly intersections of multiple aspects of her identity operate to exacerbate the disadvantages she faces.

 

This is why the Convention specifically addresses the rights of disabled women in Article 6. It requires the Government to recognize that disabled women and girls face multiple discrimination. It’s therefore crucial that the Government implement the Committee’s recommendation to explicitly incorporate protection from “multiple and intersectional discrimination” in national legislation. Whether it’s routine GP appointments, cervical testing or maternity care, disabled women constantly struggle to access medical services, so we strongly support the Committee’s recommendation to develop “targeted measurable and financed” strategies to eliminate barriers in access to health care and services and to measure their progress.”

 

3) Access to Justice

Our rights are worthless if they are unenforceable or ignored. The barriers with the justice system are procedural, financial and accessibility-related and stop us from bringing claims to enforce our civil rights, count against us in proceedings (eg divorce and family matters) and prevent us from reporting criminal abuse against us.

 

We therefore strongly support the Committee’s recommendations:

  • to develop training for the judiciary and law enforcement personnel. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has already noted concerns about “women being deemed unfit mothers for having ‘failed to protect’ their children from an abusive parent”. Ignorant, counterproductive and damaging comments and actions by judges and police must end.
  • to provide “free or affordable legal aid” for disabled people in all areas of law. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has specifically noted concern about the evidential requirements to apply for legal aid and the consequences for family law problems.

 

The many other areas of concern noted by the Committee can be read here

 

Next Steps

 

We were disappointed by the lack of media attention given to the 17-page catalogue of shame but the disabled community, including the DPOs, continue to valiantly highlight the UN’s findings.

 

Whilst we welcome the Committee’s recommendation for the UK Government to produce annual reports on its progress, we fear it will be another exercise of denial and lack data, evidence or understanding of intersectional discrimination.

 

We, Sisters of Frida, are preparing for CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and working with other women’s organisations on this. In the meantime, we are joining the ENIL Freedom March in Brussels and will raise it with our MEPs as to how they will be responding to protecting disabled women on VAWG as the Istanbul Convention is being ratified by the UK government.

 

Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO of the Women Resource Centre says:

“The last time Sisters of Frida went with the UK CEDAW Working Group to Geneva, we noted in our oral statement that women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK are facing threats to their rights but this does not have to be the case if government policies are created in partnership with women’s NGOs and include a gendered perspective. This will ensure that there is not a long-term legacy of discrimination against women, and will also impact on the future economy.

 

In 2017, Sisters of Frida note that disabled women are acknowledged as still facing the same level of discrimination in the UNCRPD Concluding Observations. We call upon the UK government to honour its commitment to women’s rights and work with us to establish a clear and inclusive mechanism in order to bring women’s voices into the heart of government.”

 

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Co-Director of the Women’s Budget Group said:

 

‘We know that disabled women have been hit particularly badly by austerity policies over the last seven years. Disabled women have lost income through cuts to both specific disability benefits but also to housing benefit, tax credits and benefits for children. Cuts to public services including social care, health, education and transport budgets have all disproportionately affected disabled women.

The Public Sector Equality Duty, contained in the 2010 Equality Act, places a positive obligation on all public authorities to have due regard to the impact of their policies and practices on equality. Despite this the government have failed to publish meaningful assessments of the cumulative impact of austerity on equality.

We call on the government to meet both their obligations under both domestic and international law to ensure that their policies meet the needs of disabled women’

 

Sarah Green, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition said:

 

“It is known that disabled women are disproportionately subjected to sexual and domestic violence by perpetrators of these crimes, and that disabled women face additional barriers to escaping and staying safe, and even in being believed.

 

“International human rights treaties require our Government to ensure that disabled women’s needs are specifically considered and addressed when implementing policy on policing and preventing violence. Following the UN CRDP inquiry into the UK’s performance in this area, we need to hear assurances from the UK Government that disabled women’s needs are known and are made part of policy and practice in relation to ending and preventing abuse.”

 

Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters said:

 

‘Leave no woman behind’ is an important development and human rights goal that is central to achieving gender equality and one to which the UK government claims to be committed. But in the UK this goal remains largely rhetorical as the most vulnerable women – those with disabilities and multiple needs – are rendered marginalised and invisible by increasingly harsh economic and social welfare measures. Disabled women’s needs and rights are being gravely and systematically violated by the UK government. Why else do we see such an appalling lack of access to emergency shelters, secure housing and welfare rights, education, work, health and counselling facilities for disabled women who are also fleeing domestic violence? If the UK wants to be recognised as a leader in disability and human rights, it must develop laws, policies and strategies that enhance the rights of all women. This means understanding and addressing the overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination such as race, gender and disability that create additional vulnerabilities and barriers for women. Sadly this government is unlikely to turn its rhetoric on achieving a ‘fairer’ society into reality but we are ready to stand with our disabled sisters to shame the government into action.

 

Lee Eggleston on behalf of Rape Crisis England and Wales said:

 

‘Disabled women who have experienced sexual violence make up a quarter of Rape Crisis service users – which is an indication of how disproportionately disabled women are impacted by sexual violence, often by their own carers. The voice and engagement of specialist organisations run by and for disabled women, like Sisters of Frida and Stay Safe East, is essential to the CEDAW process in raising awareness of sexual violence to the Committee.’

 

Zarin Hainsworth OBE, Chair,  National Alliance of Women’s Organisations

 

Disabled women  face multiple disadvantage in being able to participate as fully as they wish in all aspects of their lives – social, as well as political and economic .  The CEDAW Committee made recommendations in their concluding observations to their last report that would improve the capacity of women in the UK to access health care and justice but little has been achieved and austerity policies combined with a lack of specific attention to the issues faced by disabled women, make these more not less distant goals.  Indeed, disabled women – especially those with learning disabilities who are also likely to experience mental ill-health – continue to face the loss of their babies at birth.

We strongly support NAWO members, Sisters of Frida, in their campaign for focused attention by the UK Government on the needs and concerns of disabled women and girls.’

 

 

We would be happy to hear from others, individuals and/or organisations, who would like to join us in our campaign for disabled women’s rights in issues mentioned here. Please comment below or write to hello@sisofrida.org, tweet @sisofrida

 

Note: Stay Safe East is a unique user-led organisation run by disabled people, providing specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled people from diverse communities in East London (currently Waltham Forest and Newham) who are victims/survivors of domestic or sexual violence, hate crime, harassment and other forms of abuse.