Author Archives: sisofrida

At the European Parliament Disability Intergroup, Strasbourg

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written July 14th 2013

European Parliament, Strasbourg

European Parliament, Strasbourg

Last week the Disability Intergroup* of the European Parliament met for the launch of a new report on Women and Disability prepared by rapporteur Angelika Werthmann (MEP). In her introductory speech Ms Werthmann explained the initiative had sprung from a (non-disabled) women’s group concerned to further include disabled women in their focus, but that for her  (and many in the womens group), disability was an entirely new subject so preparing the report had been a learning curve. Personally I felt a bit wary of what she might say initially, but  then before she expanded her presentation she made a specific invitation to Intergroup members and attendees to consider sending her further amendments which would be factored in the final publication.

Her report highlights the specific barriers to full participation and inclusion in society faced by disabled women, and was warmly welcomed by all attending. A representative of the European Disability Forum congratulated Ms Werthmann’s research and the initiative taken , then suggested that the report  include more explanation of the different ways in which disability has been modelled historically.  Others agreed the paper was excellently researched and similarly noted that occasionally the social model perspective was not always applied, and some more attention here could improve what was a significant contribution. The Greek MEP finally reminded us all that austerity was hitting women and particularly disabled women harder, and more so in the southern EZ than the north.

Sisters of Frida member, Eleanor Firman, attended the meeting and is making contact with the Vice Chair of the Disability Intergroup (UK MEP Richard Howitt) regarding potential SoF amendments.

*The European Intergroups are cross-party committees of MEPs focussed on a common interest or concern – a bit like the All Party Parliamentary Groups we have in the UK).

- Eleanor Firman

Day 2 Cedaw Lunch time briefing

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Today we had the lunchtime briefing to the CEDAW committee. We took our handouts and postcards and we had the Sister of Frida’s banner to decorate the room with. It was a small windowless hot room and we all trooped in – some people had to sit next door.

When the committee all came in Charlotte welcomed them and we introduced ourselves briefly with who we are, our organisation and area expertise. I was taken aback when the first question was on disabled women. I spoke about how the impact of cuts affected every area of disabled woman’s lives – even if it does not specifically mention disability and that some have taken their lives as a result of the cumulative impact. We then went on to other issues in particular legal aid, access to justice,  and the need for proof of residence of over 12 months. Hanana Sidiqui of Southall Black Sisters spoke eloquently about the cuts to their services.

We were then told the UK raporteur wanted to meet us at 4pm so we had a bit of a break while Eleanor and I started our information briefing as was required.

At 6pm we went to the brilliant Big Voices exhibit and met a few more committee members and folks. A very full day.

Lunchtime briefing with CEDAW committee

Press release on NGOs presentations on CEDAW

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(15th July)

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets with NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with non-governmental organizations and three national human rights institutions who briefed Experts on the situation of the rights of women in Cape Verde, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and the United Kingdom. The reports of these four countries will be reviewed by the Committee this week.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Cape Verde said that women with disabilities faced inequality in education and a lack of opportunities based on multiple and historic discrimination.

Speakers from NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina said that laws dealing with violence against women were not well implemented and victims of domestic crime were not well supported.  Political participation was lacking and women did not have good access to healthcare, education or legal aid.  Rape cases remaining from the conflict were not always tried as crimes against humanity and access to reparations had not improved.

Representatives of NGOs in Serbia said that extremism impacted everyday life.  The church still significantly shaped societal norms, affecting the demand for the provision of contraception and abortion.  Women with disabilities were inhibited from expressing their sexual and reproductive rights, did not receive priority in social benefits provision, and could be vulnerable to abuse given the lack of support.  Roma organizations were struggling in the face of the limited will and funding from the Government.

Organizations speaking about the United Kingdom indicated that women were bearing the brunt of austerity measures affecting the heavily female public sector and cuts on welfare benefits.  Changes to the healthcare system were also affecting women’s rights and affordable and accessible childcare was lacking.  Abortion was still not freely available in Northern Ireland, despite earlier recommendations.  Cuts to legal aid for many private and family matters constituted a step backwards.

…………….

Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations

United Kingdom

Women’s Resource Centre said the Government’s austerity programme disproportionately impacted women and some had been made destitute as a result.  The high cost of childcare discouraged many women from seeking work at all, and free legal aid for many domestic issues had been removed.  Changes to the National Health Service meant women’s needs were not being met.  Support services had been cut and measures to tackle violence had not been successful.  The lack of disaggregated data prevented current and future measurements of inequality.  There were discrepancies on women’s policies across the devolved authorities.

ENGENDER indicated that women had borne the brunt of austerity measures and reductions in the female-dominated public sector.  The Scottish Government should identify groups that needed additional support and Scotland must ensure that the action plan from the recent Women’s Employment Summit created significant and measurable outcomes.  The NGO welcomed the consideration of childcare provision as infrastructure and universal provision was needed.  A system of independent legal representation should be introduced to enable complainants of sexual offences to assert their rights to privacy.

Northern Ireland European Platform Board said that women were under-represented in politics.  Despite intense lobbying by non-governmental organizations, Security Council resolution 1325 had not been implemented.  Ethnic minority women faced structural barriers and limited data was collected on instances of violence against women in this group.  There was no national childcare strategy and women had problems in accessing affordable childcare.  Women could not access abortion on grounds of rape, incest or severe abnormality.

read the rest of the news from the OHCHR

 

Day 1 Oral presentations to the CEDAW committee

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with Elisabeth behind us

We set off in the morning with the IWRAW group by bus to the UN Palais de Nations. We were unable to go in with the others however because apparently we were not registered inspite of having the emails which said we should be. however we were not the only ones, Elizabeth Sclater, of the older women’s delegation was also in the same boat.

When we got our badges we went in and was in time to join the young people, Big Voices group to do the building tour. There were some impressive rooms.

More importantly we joined the others for lunch to discuss final details for the oral presentations.  We had about 10 mins in all for UK, and presentations were to be given by England, Scotland and N Ireland, Wales was not able to come. We were also given information about who was in the CEDAW panel and what they had interests in. There was only one woman who had disability specifically in her profile – from Qatar. The other countries giving oral presentations were Cape Verde, Bosnia Herzogovenia and Serbia.

The room where we were to have our oral examinations was not really accessible, the furniture was fixed with not much room for manoeuvre for wheelchair users – there was another from Bosnia Herzegovina. There were ear pieces for interpretations and to hear better but I did not have access to one. So my report of what is being said will have to be verified and in more detail later.

I am struck by the fact that all the countries mentioned disabled women and Cape Verde’s presentation was mostly on the status of disabled women, a disabled woman was one of the speakers for Bosnia Herzegovina.

We had so much we wanted to say in so little time. I will not do justice to our presentations – I m writing in the dark and really tired, the day has been a bit overwhelming. There s a lunch time briefing to prepare for tomorrow.

- Eleanor Lisney

Disabled women in Geneva for the 55th session of CEDAW questioning UK government on women’s rights

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” It is essential that disabled women are represented in processes like CEDAW reporting as too often our experience as disabled women is invisible, this is an opportunity to change this and show how the cuts and legal changes are affecting us”

says Zara Todd, Sisters of Frida steering group member.

For the first time, disabled women (Sisters of Frida) will take part with other women’s groups from the UK in Geneva to address the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) so as to highlight the problems impacting on women’s equality in the UK and what our Government must be examined on, and held to account over, by the UN. This is a unique opportunity for women to raise the key issues they are facing with the UN and the eyes of the world will be on the UK and their progress on women.

On July 17th the UK’s record on women’s rights will come under the spotlight internationally as the UK Government report to CEDAW on their progress. (They were last examined by the UN Committee in 2008. )

Women’s rights in the UK have come to a standstill and in fact some are being reversed. Government policies and austerity measures are disproportionately impacting on disabled women and the rights that were fought so hard by disabled people for are now being reduced. CEDAW is as an important instrument to disabled women as CRPD is important to disabled people and they are inter related.

The Women’s Resource Centre has coordinated a network of organisations across the UK who have produced a detailed shadow report which reflects on the Government’s report to CEDAW which was submitted in 2011. In October 2012 the CEDAW Working Group sent a list of key issues and suggested questions for the Committee to ask the Government to highlight the extent of discrimination against women in the UK which the Government gave a piecemeal response to in February 2013.

The shadow report – Women’s Equality in the UK: A health check – brings together issues impacting on the realisation of women’s rights under CEDAW in the UK in order to support the Government to make positive changes in the future.  These are the recommendations put forth in the shadow report on disabled women’s rights

  • Take into account the intersection of gender and disability and mainstream disabled women in all Government policies
  • Implement an effective data collection system which is disaggregated by sex, age, disability and region, which can inform the developmentof policies and programmes to promote equal opportunities forwomen and girls with disabilities
  • Specific strategies are needed to target disabled LBT women as they experience multiple discrimination through homophobia within disabled communities and services, and negative attitudes to disabled people in LGB&T communities and services

On health and social care

  • Take steps to address the poor health conditions of women withpsychosocial disabilities. Disabled women typically receive healthservices that are targeted at women in general or at disabled people in general, services need to be targeted specifically for them
  • Improving access to mental health services for disabled women must be accomplished by services that respect the right of disabled womento make their own choices, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Allocate more financial resources to Social Service Departments,requiring them to use the interpretations of the social model of disability when assessing disabled people’s support needs for a ‘care package’
  • Ensure women and girls with disabilities are educated about sexual and reproductive health, including Sexually Transmitted Infections and maternal services and adopt reforms to improve healthcare services and facilities, including in respect of sexual and reproductive health

Political and public life

  • Educate media about the discrimination disabled people experience, and encourage them to report the ‘real’ stories including monitoringthe portrayal of women with disabilities in the media alongside industry self-regulation
  • The UK Government should offer extra support for disabled womenwho want to become MPs, councilors or other elected officials totackle their under-representation in public policy

Economic and social benefits

  • Simplify the application process to the benefits system. Most importantly, the system should recognise that disabled people are experts on their needs and the difficulties they face. The benefits should allow for them to remove the barriers they experience on a daily basis

Disability hate crime and violence against disabled women

  •  Ensure steps are taken to address the heightened risk for girls and women with disabilities of becoming victims of violence, abuse,exploitation and harmful practices, such as forced marriage, in thehome, community and institutions
  • Effective legislation and policies must be put in place, including Women – focused legislation and policies that include disability, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against women with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted
  • Ensure that both services and information for victims are madeaccessible to women and girls with disabilities which guarantee their access to redress and protection, including training of police and others and increasing the number of accessible domestic abuse refuge services

Rural women

  •  Increase accessibility in public transport, and train bus/train staff to assist disabled women travelers

We believe that the way the UK Government is implementing welfare reform is having a significant and vastly disproportionate effect on disabled women. These policies on welfare reform are failing to ensure the rights of disabled women and impact assessments are not carried out properly resulting in erosion of the rights which they currently have. The regression of human rights being conducted against UK citizens in the name of welfare has a disproportionate and exponential impact on disabled people. The changes to legal aid means that disabled women have no recourse to support against the discriminations further compounded by gender, race, sexual orientation, the class system, and underlying social deprivation,”

says Eleanor Lisney, Co-ordinator of Sisters of Frida, together with the Glasgow Disability Alliance (who also submitted a report to CEDAW )

The Appendix 36: General Recommendation 18 – Disabled women is at http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Appendix-36_General-Recommendation-18_Disabled-women_FINAL2.pdf (PDF)

Word doc Appendix-36_General-Recommendation-18_Disabled-women_FINAL2

The full shadow report Women’s Equality in the UK: A health check is at http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/our-work/cedaw/cedaw-shadow-report/

For more information or interviews contact Zara Todd : zaraltodd@hotmail.com 0044 (0) 07952185958 and follow @FridasSisters (twitter), information about other groups from

Women Resource Centre Policy Officer Charlotte Gage,  charlotte@wrc.org.uk or charlotte.gage.uk@gmail.com 0044 (0) 7841508231 @womnsresource

Notes to editors

Sisters of Frida (sisofrida.org) is an experimental co operative of disabled and allied women seeking a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.

The delegation to Geneva is made up of a variety of women’s organisations from around the UK who will be highlighting specific issues relevant to their work and the women they work with as well as bringing issues from organisations in the UK who are unable to attend.

Members of the delegation include:

  • Committee on the Administration of Justice (Northern Ireland)
  • Engender (Scotland)
  • National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
  • North East Women’s Network
  • Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform
  • Older Women’s Network Europe
  • Sisters of Frida
  • Southall Black Sisters
  • Wales Assembly of Women
  • Women’s Resource Centre

There are also representatives from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission attending to provide evidence in their roles as National Human Rights Institutions.

Day 1 Meeting the CEDAW working group UK delegation in Geneva

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with the IWRAW training group for CEDAW

with the IWRAW training group for CEDAW

“No ability to exhaust domestic law renders CEDAW meaningless”  Cris McCurley from NE Women Network

At dinner by Lake Geneva

At dinner by Lake Geneva

En route to CEDAW in Geneva

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at St Pancras

at St Pancras

Both Eleanors set off at St Pancras Saturday morning to catch the Eurostar to go to Geneva, changing stations in Paris to join the other members of the UK delegation for the CEDAW 55th session.

The Eurostar journey was smooth and we took bus no 65 to continue from Gare de Lyon for Geneva. We located the bus stop and all went according to plan. But we missed our train because when we alighted at the designate stop, the signage was so bad we didn’t locate the assistance office and they said they couldn’t put us on – even with 10 mins to spare before the train was due to set off (inspite of the fact we had booked assistance months in advance).

So we had lunch there at the station while waiting for the next direct train – a wait of about 3 hours. We didn’t know we would be given a meal on board the train so we had a another fish dinner! However that meant we did not arrive until 21.15 too late to buy a map at the station. With a little printed Google map and a lot of different directions from passerbys (best directions were from 3 friendly men in a pub) we got to Hotel Silva where we have booked to stay while in Geneva.

Needless to say we were very happy to get there apart,  and bonus surprise, bumping into Charlotte Gage from the UK delegation. More to come later. We will try to blog daily from Geneva.