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WOW Parties at Royal Festival Hall: Introduction to Sisters of Frida

Eleanor's Intro to Sisters of Frida on stage

Photo by Gayathiri Jambulingam

Good evening! My name is Eleanor and I m the coordinator of Sisters of Frida. We re very happy to be here in celebration with you all. Thank you WoW Parties for including us.

The vision for Sisters of Frida started when Michelle Daley and I were invited by Million Women Rise to speak in 2010. We shouted out at Trafalgar Sq to a few thousand people about the violence against disabled women and the lack of support we get as disabled women. We reminded people that we are women too ‚Äď so very often disabled women get forgotten in feminist circles. ¬†We sat in a hotel tea room next to the British Library and discussed what we would want – a sisterhood to support each other.. Sisters of Frida slowly came into being. We took a long time deliberating on a name. We are disabled women but that is not our only identity ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 powerful and beautiful  images of the crippled body. She was also an strong 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.

sisters of frida logoWe can strive to live our lives as full as she did. We decided on a logo with the Kolibri or Hummingbird – 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…

Last year we took the message to Geneva, we went with other women NGOs to the 55th session of CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). Our presence there helped several recommendations on disabled women for the UK Govt from the CEDAW committee. We also realised that we need disaggregated information on disabled women.

But we are very new to this and we not funded at all¬† – we are in the process of becoming a CIC community interest company ‚Äď we hope to get some funding and build some toolkits for women in a cooperative and co productive spirit. There are so many things we need to do. And hopefully we can learn from each other and from the wonderful women gathered here tonight.

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