Author Archives: sisofrida

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


” 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 (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

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

Women Resource Centre Policy Officer Charlotte Gage, or 0044 (0) 7841508231 @womnsresource

Notes to editors

Sisters of Frida ( 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

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

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.

Postpartum Psychosis


We asked to repost this great blog about postpartum psychosis, not many women know about it. Read more at Embarrasing Minds: How giving birth made me lose my mind.

I’m allergic to childbirth.

Have you ever gone eight days and nights without sleeping? The mind you have by the end of that period is not the same one you started with. That’s how I came to be sitting in A&E in the middle of the night talking to the duty psychiatrist about my electric cats. That one followed me around in my notes. If anyone needed evidence that I’d lost touch with reality, there’s always the electric cats. But that was the first time: this is all about the second time.

Postpartum Psychosis (also called ‘Puerperal Psychosis’, ‘Postnatal Psychosis’, ‘Postpartum Bipolar Disorder’ or PP) is a severe episode of mental illness, which starts suddenly in the first few weeks following childbirth. PP occurs following 1-2 in 1000 deliveries, and can be very severe and serious. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk. There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP may experience. These include:

-symptoms of “high” mood (mania) – for example, racing thoughts and pressure to talk too much.

-symptoms of low mood – for example depressed mood, lack of energy, poor appetite and poor sleep.

-psychotic symptoms – such as believing things that are not true (delusions) or seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations). Delusions may be grandiose, and can include fears of harm coming to herself or her baby.

With treatment, the vast majority of women will recover fully and there are usually no long term effects on the relationship between a mother and her baby.

Unfortunately we know little about the causes of PP. Research points to biological, probably hormonal, factors related to pregnancy and childbirth but many other factors are likely to be involved.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis


I’ve had it twice, following the births of my two sons, Kajek and Samek. The second time was the more severe – but far better than the first time, which was the worst. The second time I had a privileged experience: I experienced madness. The first time I had a shocker: I had a breakdown, Kajek came close to death, and social services incarcerated me in a psychiatric hospital for five weeks. Both times I had a baby, which in the longer term is the most important thing. The second time I thought I was dying, and being reincarnated, and that I was Gaia giving birth to myself. I railed and raved in an empty room, I begged the powers that be to record what I was saying, I was euphoric, inspired, desperate, a loon. I scaled the heights and I plumbed the depths. The first time I was afraid, trapped, angry, frustrated, abused and defeated. The first time I cried my heart out. The second time I laughed my ass off. Among other things, I actually had a great time. Among other things. There was darkness too – not least leaving Kajek unmothered for nine weeks. But – and take this with a pinch of salt – I enjoyed being mad. (Did I? I don’t know. You tell me).

After having postpartum psychosis following the birth of my first child, I had a 50% chance of falling ill after another child. I was unlucky to get postpartum psychosis again. I was lucky to get postpartum psychosis again. The second time created the conditions that made it possible for me to recover from the first time. (Have I? I don’t know. You tell me).

I have a souvenir from my first stay at the Mother and Baby Unit: one of the hospital towels that got mixed up with my belongings. It hangs, dirty and ragged, on the inside of the door of my garden shed. It is unlovely. I also have a souvenir of the second time, not-accidentally ferreted away in my packing before I left the unit. It is a soft, clean, comfortable woollen blanket which I would happily have on my bed, touching my face. I will keep it, unless they demand it back.

I write this as my record of my experience of psychosis and mania. I write this to abolish the ghosts of the first time and celebrate the highs of the second time. I don’t want to leave the scattered fragments of my mind unintelligible and unintelligent in a heap at the back of the wardrobe; I want to sift those fragments, shuffle and order them, curate them; make them cohere. I would do almost anything for this never to have happened to me, but it did, so I can either let that experience disappear into the mists of memory, throw away all my scraps and notes and memorabilia and delete my text messages. Or I can write it, and even let people read it, and I can own it. I choose to own it so this is my record. I’m letting it go by hanging onto it.

Update on Anne Pridmore’s fight for the Independent Living Fund


Channel 4 news Katie Razzall had the piece  all ready for broadcast that eventful evening on the 13th March where Anne was at court with the other 5 people on behalf of thousands of others -  challenging the Government’s decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund from 2015 and devolve it to local authorities instead. However, in an ironic twist, news broke that a new Pope was chosen and all news coverage focused on that instead.

It was published online instead

Anne told Channel 4 News: “It’s like the sword of Damocles hanging over my shoulder because it’s always on your mind: what’s going to happen? Many of us feel the same way. If the local authority won’t take over the funding to pay for the bit the ILF have been paying, I see the only option is being put into an old people’s home. I’ve lived in this house for 47 years and didn’t expect to have to campaign to stay in my own home at my age.”

Mrs Pridmore has met representatives from her local council to ask what their plans are.

“I pressed them but they were very cagey, and talked about other ways of providing care which doesn’t involve “hands on” care. I believe they are probably referring to things like people having to use incontinence pads. They are not doing that yet in my local authority but I know that people who have to use these in other areas.”

Lawyers for the six told us they are challenging the Government decision on two grounds.

They say the Government is breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, to which it is a signatory and which includes promises to promote independent living.

They also argue the consultation process carried out before the scheme was axed was “unlawful” because it didn’t provide adequate information on the differences between the fund and the local authority assessment and provision. They also say there hasn’t been proper assessment of the impact of the change on disabled people’s ability to live and work indepdently.

Read the rest on the Channel 4 website.
Read also her story on the DPAC website.

News from sisters


Firstly, we are happy for Maria Zedda of Wideaware to announce the launch that Transport Minister Norman Baker MP will today launch an improved website designed with the help of disabled people for rail passengers who may need assistance when travelling by rail.

rail accessibility

rail accessibility

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has expanded and renamed its successful Rail Travel Made Easy website, adding more information and advice on rail travel for the increasing numbers of disabled people now travelling by train.

The revamped site, now called Rail Accessibility – Rail Travel Made Easy, will be launched at a meeting of the National Rail Accessibility Group in Parliament this afternoon.

Maria Zedda, Managing Director of Wideaware said: “This has been a very exciting project to be involved in. The Rail Accessibility – Rail Travel Made Easy website will deliver really useful information to disabled and older passengers.”

And to announce the publication of Armineh Soorenian’s  Housing and transport: access issues for disabled international students in British universities.

This article explores two disabled people’s ‘Seven Needs’ to independent living, those of ‘housing’ and ‘transport’ issues, in relation to disabled international students in British universities. Firstly, students’ living arrangements, including issues related to the suitability of university accommodation to their disability-related needs, have been identified. Secondly, the choice and accessibility of transport used is examined. A range of barriers that this group of students encounter based on their double or multiple identities as ‘disabled’, ‘international’ and sometimes ‘mature’ or ‘postgraduate’ students has thus been identified and discussed. The article highlights the barriers that are reinforced and exacerbated by the interplay of students’ different identities, proposing ways of removing these difficulties.

anne pridmoreLastly but not least we wish all the best to Anne Pridmore as one of the six taking on the DWP against the closure of the Independent Living Fund in the High Court in London and we urge everyone who can make it to join the virgil on Wednesaday and Thursday. Help by writing to your MP – here’s the template letter.

We are with you in spirit, Sister, if not in body!

Sisters of Frida’s Anne Pridmore takes on Government

anne pridmore

Anne Pridmore

We at Sisters of Frida are proud to support Ann Pridmore, from Sisters of Frida, a disabled rights campaigner as she prepares for one of her toughest fights in taking on the Government in court.

Anne will be one of six disabled people from across England challenging the decision to scrap the independent living fund (ILF).

 Like thousands of people, Anne, 73, who has cerebral palsy, gets about half of her benefits directly from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) through the ILF.

The cash can be used for such things as hiring an assistant and getting laundry and shopping done – which are not provided by councils through social services care packages.

The fund has already closed to new members and, from 2015, the money will go to councils instead.

It will not be ring-fenced, meaning local authorities can do what they want with it.

Anne, of Market Harborough, said she feared many disabled people would have to rely on relatives or charities in order to continue living independently. Her challenge will be heard at the High Court in London over two days from March 13.

Anne, who has been campaigning for disabled people’s rights for 27 years, said:

“The Government always attacks the weakest members of society. There are about 18,500 people who are at risk of losing their funding and it’s a big step backwards.

“This Government has set back disabled rights 25 years since it has been in power, with people being taken off incapacity benefits and now this.

“It’s undoing all the work I’ve been doing.

“I think this fight is going to be a hard one.”

Anne said while she felt too old to be taking a Government department to court, she was doing it on behalf of younger people with disabilities who could benefit from the ILF in the future.

The six disabled people will ask the courts to declare that the public consultation held last year was unlawful and that the department had failed to explain why the only option it offered in its consultation was to close the fund.

They will also argue the Government breached the Equality Act by failing to assess the impact of the closure on disabled people.

Read more:

Feisty Disabled Women speak about what having adequate support means to Independent Living and how benefit cuts by the government will affect them


Please read Kate Belgrave’s
A nasty cut: people affected by the closure of the independent living fund
for her interviews with Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper and how the government’s atrocious decision to close the Independent Living Fund (the ILF) will affect them.

Watch Sophie Partridge talking about the importance of funding people to live independently.

She says,

‘You know we can’t be cast as victims all the time. Its difficult we have to fight the good fight without appearing pathetic cripples, to be honest with you, its very hard to find the balance, actually, …because a lot of the stuff, the arguments against benefit cuts, they do use the word ‘vulnerable’ a hell of a lot…(written to David Cameron) its not my impairment which makes me vulnerable, it is your cuts, it is your policies..give us decent resources and we will add to your economy..we will play our part but we will have to have adequalte resources.

Video by Kate Belgrave

Penny Pepper tells what having Independent Living Fund means to her as a disabled woman and more…
Video by Kate Belgrave

International Networking Site for Disabled Youth Launch


We would like to congratulate one of our Sisters of Frida, Zara Todd,  for the launch of a website for young disabled people from across the world with the aim of connecting them.

International Network for Disabled Youth, known as “INDYspace” (, an online network dedicated to connecting young disabled people aged 16-30 from around the world, has been officially launched.

The website, funded by Oxfam Australia through their Oxfam International Youth Partnerships (OIYP) programme, is the first of its kind in bringing young disabled people together on a global level. It enables users to sign up and share their experiences through the posting of blogs, pictures and videos, as well as providing information on a range of relevant topics including disability rights, independent living, travel and transport, and inclusion and accessibility, acting as both a network and an information base to which users can contribute. It is hoped that in the long-term, the site can provide informative, user-run webinars and interactive online video conferences. There is a strong dedication to making the site both ascetic and accessible to its users, with recommendations given by a web accessibility consultant currently being implemented.

The founders of the website, Erin Gough from New Zealand and Zara Todd from the United Kingdom, who first met at an Oxfam international youth conference two years ago, embody the site mission of enabling young disabled people to work together across borders, constructing the site from opposite sides of the globe.

Zara and Erin

When asked why the pair created the website, Zara Todd commented “We saw that there was a gap , online and literally within the international sector for young disabled people to connect to one another. We wanted a way for young disabled people to all become stronger, to enable them to find solutions together to the barriers that they face as young disabled people, regardless of what country they’re in.” Erin Gough added that the site was “made by young disabled people, for young disabled people” and that she hoped users would take the opportunity to both use and share the site, as “the more of a global force we are, the more global change will be created”.

Press note by Women with Disabilities India Network


we posted this  in solidarity with our disabled sisters in India and everywhere else!

Press note by Women with Disabilities India Network

(dated 30/12/2012)

Last night a young girl of 23 years died after being brutally raped in New Delhi. Her struggle lasted from 16 to 29th December 2012. Travelling with her friend who hailed a bus they were  brutally attacked by a group of six men, while the man was thrown off the bus, the woman was gang raped. The brutality perpetuated on the victim has outraged the nation.

We the ‘Women with Disabilities India Network’ join other women and concerned citizens in condemning the act.


We can understand the trauma faced by the young woman because we are targets of such violence each day in both public and private sphere.Such rapes are not isolated incidents, but are rather experienced in a continuum of violence. They happen within the homes, in buses and trains and in State run institutions for instance against women with mental illness and young girls with intellectual disability where rape is an everyday affair.    Rape by household members often remains unreported to avoid further stigmatization.

We believe that rape as a weapon of violence must be stopped and impunity enjoyed by perpetrators brought to an end. Impunity for the rape of women has become a national concern, because it compounds the effects of such violence. It intensifies the subordination and powerlessness of the targets of rape and sends a message to society that male violence against women is both acceptable and inevitable.

We urge that the cases of such heinous crimes be taken up and speedy action taken so that justice can be done.


We do not believe that death penalty is the answer as it reflects attention away from the violence perpetuated against us. This is especially the case when much of the violence perpetrators are mostly men from within families.  We aim for dignity and justice and safe homes, society and country. We believe that The normalcy and ethical acceptability of this violence must be challenged by the normative and ablest  attitudes


We must adopt laws and policies recognizing that all actions that violate women’s bodies are illegal.  Women must themselves be key decision makers in efforts to identify priority concerns and legal responses.


There is a need for further popular, police, and judicial training that builds specific cultural awareness   about disability issues  and legal knowledge on the issue.

Without such efforts, further elaboration of domestic and international, legal standards will fail women.


There has to be an appropriate strict punishment for all rapists, ensuring that they do not indulge in such activities again Concerns of deaf women in relation to rape came out very blatantly in our meeting in Delhi on 1st October 2012.
Since most disabled women are raped by men they trust the most who may be their family member’s or care givers (in institutes), there must be a mechanism set across the country where they can report such matters without the scare of any negative consequences. Also psychological and vocational support must be provided to such women.

Additional vulnerability of WWD is not recognized anywhere. I think that it must be recognized and addressed at all levels whether it be in the women commission, women groups and NGO programmes or any programmes and schemes instituted by the government.

Prepared by

Anita Ghai
Associate Professor
Fellow, Teen Murti (2009-2011)
IAWS president (2008-2011)
EC member IAWS (2011-2014)

Jeeja Ghosh
Head Advocacy and Disability Studies IICP,


Shivani Gupta

Founder and Chief Consultant


New Delhi

Anjlee Agarwal
Executive Director & Access Consultant
New Delhi

DLU South

Asha Hans
Former Prof & Director Women’s Studies
Utkal University