Category Archives: Sisters of Frida

Meeting Rashida Manjoo, UN rapporteur on Violence against

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Eleanor Lisney with Rashida Manjoo

Eleanor Lisney with Rashida Manjoo

Sisters of Frida was invited by Eiman to join other Muslim women NGOs to attend  the consultative meeting and  meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, at the Central Mosque in Leicester. We had prepared a pack and briefing paper with a short oral presentation.

There were about 20 different NGOs and we presented our concerns to her.

It was good to meet her and the other women, some of whom wanted to collaborate with us in the future!

Listen to Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur speak on violence against women, its causes and consequences at the public part of the first Joint Committee on Human Rights this morning at the House of Commons. (http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=15260)

A useful resource in connection would be the Rights of Women which have produced a number of information sheets on legal issues affecting women.

 

Disabled women in discussion

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(subtitles to come later)

(from right) Rahel Gaffen, Michelle Daley, Zara Todd, Lucia Bellini, Kirsten Hearn, Eleanor Lisney and Ciara Doyle.

Filmed with thanks to Disability Action in Islington by Felix Gonzalez for the WOW party installation at the Southbank, London

At WOW Festival 2014: Austerity – Who Benefits?

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Why are cuts and austerity politics still disproportionately affecting women? Leading anti-cuts campaigners including Rosie Rogers from UK Uncut, poet, artist and activist Zita Holbourne and Eleanor Lisney from Sisters of Frida lay out today’s cuts landscape and consider what challenges the next round of cuts will bring. Chaired by Guardian journalist Kira Cochrane.

Photos : WOW Party at the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank

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Charlotte Gage: speech at WOW party!

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Charlotte Gage speaking

Thanks to Sisters of Frida for asking me to speak but really I want to thank them for their involvement in the reporting process for the examination of the UK Government under the International Bill of Rights for Women (CEDAW) last year.

It was really important to have Sisters of Frida involved from the beginning as part of the working group for the report that went to the UN Committee and to ensure that the issues facing disabled women in the UK were included in this. As well as a specific appendix on disabled women, which I hope will also be used for the International Disability Convention which the UK Government is being examined under this year.

It was also really important to have Eleanor and Eleanor from Sisters of Frida at the examination in Geneva last July lobbying the Committee on disabled women’s issues and being a part of the UK delegation. And the results of this work (report written by Armineh Soorenian) can be seen in the recommendations made by the UN Committee to the UK Government which include specific references to disabled women in terms of disabled women’s representation in decision-making, access to employment and access to healthcare, particularly prenatal and reproductive health services.

So it is really great to be able to celebrate with Sisters of Frida tonight and to look forward to more important work ensuring that disabled women’s rights are realised!

Eleanor Lisney : Intersectionality and disability

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eleanor‘Nothing about us without us’ – how often do we declare and hear that as disabled people? I ve certainly carried placards and shouted the slogan on protests but tonight I want to turn it on its head. Disability intersects class, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, age, and sexual orientation – but are they always represented in the disability movement? I was told by a fellow activist that she was asked why Sisters of Frida is needed because she feels discriminated as a disabled person but not for her gender. And my response was that she obviously came from a position of privilege – yes she is white, middle class and in a salaried job and unionised. And I assume she never had the experience of feeling trapped in an abusive relationship unable to leave because she was financially dependent and that refuges meant for women escaping from domestic violence were seldom accessible or supported for disabled women. Women’s Aid outlines particular ways in which disabled women are vulnerable to physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse – and makes the point that “Getting away from abuse is often harder for disabled women because access to help and support is often controlled by the abuser.”

Racism is embedded in the system and people who have never encountered it can never understand how insidious it can be. And they, yes, even friends, make assumptions and can say things like tokenism when you insist on representation and be condescending about your culture to an extent where it is too hurtful for that friendship to be sustainable. But most of all, the real invisibles and voiceless are those women who have no recourse to legal services – for example, those whose identity documents are held by the abusers so that their residence rights cannot be proven. And how often do we hear about the ones incarcerated in residential homes/ institutionalised which put them at more risk to be exploited and abused, hidden from view.

Disabled women who are discriminated against – from feminist communities, LGBT, faith communities because they insist on congregating in non accessible venues. And the segregation is also from the disabled people’s communities because they do not understand nor interested in other identities. Where do disabled women go to discuss about the roles of being disabled lovers, mothers if they were given the opportunity of being girlfriend, wife or mother. And there are those whose sexuality were being denied or even sterilised (often presumed to be for their  own good). And who knows how to support them when they are raped? A report by Professor Betsy Stanko, stated that the ‘rape of vulnerable women, especially those with learning difficulties, has effectively been “decriminalised”.

I guess I am speaking about the need for intersectionality also when we talk about disability – that we have more than one identity and we ought to acknowledge that – and that we should acknowledge we need a space for disabled women as disabled women, we need to listen to the different identities. And feminism needs to accommodate intersectionality too – speaking as a disabled woman of colour when I can be the only non white disabled at the table I feel a double disconnect. I m sure some of you here know what I m saying where you stop wanting to engage as a form of self protection.

Harriet Tubman, a disabled American bondwoman who escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War, said ‘If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more’. I think we ought to insist on being intersectional and free people from being locked into labels so that we can build a more inclusive society.

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

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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 – 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 – 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 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 – 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.

Anne Pridmore: Speech at the WoW party

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anne pridmore

My Journey started in 1984 when my partner and main carer left after 20 years, although I gave Social Services 3 months notice three days before he went they phoned me to tell me they didn’t know what to do with me. As the end of our relationship was a complete shock to me I was left without any support and an emotional wreck.

Although my partner was a disabled man neither of us had been very political and the next 7 years gave me a tremendous shake-up when I realised that services we not in place for me or anyone else. At this time in my life I had never been left alone in the house overnight.  My first experience with the home help services from the Local Authority was a wakeup call.  When I asked her if she would get my bread out of the pantry her reply was “I’m only here to get you up”.  In the evening I was subject to the district nurse who could arrive any time between 7pm and midnight consequently I had no social life.  Then there was “the bath nurse” which fell on a Monday the result of which meant that every Bank Holiday resulted in no shower.

In 1987 –by which time I had joined many committees locally – as I had no transport – I was asked to accompany the Joint Strategy committee of the LA which took me to the Kings Fund which introduced me to Jane Campbell.  She spoke about the Independent Living Fund and it was through this chance encounter I received fourteen hours in 1989.  This meant that I was able to buy in a little social time – however this was soon reduced when one evening call from a district nurse left me feeling dehumanised and tearful, I was entertaining a couple of friends when the district nurse came. As she was taking rather along time to come in I went to the kitchen to see what she was up to.  You can imagine my horror when I found her donning  a plastic pinny and rubber gloves, asking her why she said cross contamination” to which I said “never knew cerebral palsy was contagious”!  As a result of this i decided to use 7 hrs of my precious ILF to pay for support to get me into bed. It was about this time that I decided on having a hysterectomy as I did not have the support to keep clean.

During the following two years I decided I would challenge the Local Authority to swop their in-house homecare for cash. This took me 2.5 years lots of stress and angst and finally resulting in 35 disabled people getting an award called Independent Living Project or third party funding.  As many of you will remember it was disabled people who fought and won this right.

From 1989 onwards as my impairment along with aging meant that I now have 24/7 care package funded by my LA and the Independent Living Fund which has enabled me to do the things I want to do and achieve.  Just a brief overview of some of the things I have done – would include Chairing the UK Disability Forum for Europe, finding funding to instigate one of the first disabled women’s committees called edf women where we launched a website called edf.women.co.uk.  This committee is now long gone but being Chair enabled me to meet many wonderful women and produce the Disabled Women’s Manifesto; you can take a look at this on the website. ILF gave me the opportunity to travel over Europe and Sth Africa to speak and join in conferences and hold workshops on independent living and violence against disabled women.

At this moment I employ six Personal Assistants 24/7 but like many of us I fear for our future.  The closing of the ILF in 2010 has been a bitter blow to many people who would have been leading a fuller life.  Unfortunately despite our efforts we are unsure how many this is.  In 2010 the ILF was also threatened with closure – five of us decided to challenge the government decision we lost our first  challenge but decided to appeal and won, however I feel the battle is far from over and 18,000 recipients feel they are living on a time bomb.  This present government have decided to pick on the most vulnerable members of our society because they think we will back down. Let me leave you with this message  -  amongst us today we have some very strong women – on our own we are nothing together we can win.

 

Thank you.

Sisters of Frida at the WOW Festival, South Bank

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posterWe have been lucky enough to be one of the chosen 8 women organisations for a space at the WoW (Women of the World) Parties at the Royal Festival Hall http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/wow-parties-81651

WOW Parties celebrate the work of charities and organisations supporting women in the UK and internationally. We start by joining the other organizations on The Clore Ballroom floor at 6pm and then a private party at 7 30 in the Yellow Room.

We will be celebrating disabled women with Winvisible (Women of visible and invisible disabilities) and UKDHM (who has kindly provided the refreshments) will be joining us. We have the pleasure of Jean Lambert MEP (London), Vivienne Hayes (Women Resource Centre), Annette Lawson (Committee on the Status of Women), Tracey Lezard (Inclusion London) among our guests.  Charlotte Gage will also be speaking about the impact of the presence of Sisters of Frida at the 55th session of CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in  Geneva. Other speakers will be Sisters of Frida – Anne Pridmore on social welfare reform, Zara Todd as a young disabled woman and Eleanor Lisney on intersectionality and disability.

Eleanor will also be on two panels Friday 7th March Austerity – Who Benefits? / Fri 7 March / 1.30-2.30pm / Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room (located in the foyer) with Rosie Rogers (UK Uncut) and Kira Cochrane  (Guardian)

Tickets can be booked for the day

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And Sat 8 March /3.30-4.30pm Feminism and Privilege / Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room (located in the foyer). With Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (chair) Nan Sloane (Centre for Women and Democracy), Reni Eddo Lodge (writer and contributing editor of Feminist Times).

Tickets can be booked for the day (might be sold out)

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Pass for all 3 days

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Strasbourg Freedom Drive! 9-12th September

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Sisters of Frida members were in Strasbourg to join ENIL (European Network of Independent Living) Freedom Drive.

Poster 6th Freedom Drive, Strasbourg

Zara Todd was there as a member of the young ENIL group,  and chaired the session Rejuvenating the Independent Living movement. It was heartening to see the leadership of young people at this meeting.

Zara chairing session

Zara chairing panel of young ENIL

We also took part in the march to the European Parliament from Place Republique even in the pouring rain. About a hundred disabled people with their supporters chanted and wound their way to the European Parliament – this is the 6th procession. It has been happening  every 2 years.

members of sisters of frida and allies under umbrellas

Sisters of Frida and allies!

the procession in the rain

the procession in the rain

When we got there we went into the big meeting room to meet out MEPs but it was disappointing this time because very few of the MEPs were there inspite of the fact that many of the disabled people had travelled long distances to get there. The Chair of the Disability Intergroup, Adam Kosa, did not bother to turn up, sending the excuse that he had no sign interpreter.

For the UK, Richard Howitt (Labour) and Jean Lambert (Green Party) came to address us – Richard was obviously apologetic that we were treated so shabbily. Many of the Irish MEPs came and Martin Noughton leading the meeting from the floor suggested that Adam Kosa should resign and that we should have a sit in. Adolf Kadzka said he was fed up of being patted on the head and coming there to Strasbourg every 2 years without making any progress. E mails and texts were sent out to other MEPs and more started to arrive, notably E McMillan-Scott (Lib Dem, previously Tory). He is the European Vice President, he told us he did not know we were there, even though all MEPs were informed. Interestingly enough his portfolio is human rights and democracy : ‘active involvement in the Arab Spring, as well as his leadership of the Single Seat campaign to end MEPs’ monthly trek from their base in Brussels to their official ‘seat’ in Strasbourg’ – what about our human rights? he spoke about the cost of the monthly trek and asked for some reps to be introduced to European Parliament chamber (discussing the topic of Syria at the moment).

MEPs

at the big meeting with MEPs

Richard Howitt came to rejoin us after the big meeting and we spoke about the austerity effects in the UK at present time. He was questioned on Labour’s stand on welfare reforms, and was told that disabled people was not certain that there was much difference between the two parties. He was sure that Labour would not have chosen to cut welfare so drastically. He apologised again for the bad reception from the Disability intergroup. He would welcome being invited to speak at disability groups in the UK and events in London, possibly but everything dependent on his availability.

with Richard Howitt MEP

Zara, Lucia and Eleanor with Richard Howitt MEP

Jean Lambert MEP with Zara

Jean Lambert MEP with Zara

Zara had a good talk with Jean Lambert as her MEP on disabled women issues. It was a good experience for all of us in Strasbourg.