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and sharing through lived experiences

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

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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