We often get asked why we at the Sisters of Frida campaign for the rights of disabled women. Here are a few reasons why, gathered through our research and covering the topics of employment and pay
- 35% of disabled women (and 30% of disabled men) are paid below the National Living Wage in the UK.
- Disabled men face a pay gap of 11%, while disabled women face a gap twice as large at 22%.
- Despite qualifications, disabled women have lower participation rates in higher skilled jobs and work fewer hours than both non-disabled women and disabled men.
- 27% of disabled women are economically inactive compared with 16% of disabled men.
- Lone parenthood reduces female employment generally by 15%. However, disabled female lone parents are more than half as likely to work as non-disabled female lone parents.
At Sisters of Frida, our vision is to have a future in which disabled women are empowered, celebrated, informed, connected, valued, and at the centre of society. A 2016 Catalyst grant from the RSA helped support a series of workshops led by our organisation, which focused on neglected conversations about disabled women and sexuality. Our workshops enabled access to conversations by providing the necessary access as requested by the attendees. Along with these workshops, we have also used the opportunity to write a toolkit for making events accessible: http://www.sisofrida.org/sisters-of-fridas-accessibility-guide-to-meetings-and-events-a-toolkit/.
Our conversations navigated a range of issues, from sex-positive self-image and consent to balancing dependence, independence, and interdependence. These topics are rarely discussed, even by disabled people’s organisations, and yet are so important if we want to build an inclusive society that embraces the experiences of disabled women. Women’s issues and bodies are on display and up for discussion, now more than ever, but disabled women’s bodies are often ignored and seldom mentioned in public conversation. This lack of visibility contributes to the outcomes outlined in the statistics above, and a lack of public data on disabled women and issues affecting us impedes conversations about how to overcome these barriers.
Disabled women are systemically marginalised and their voices not included. At Sisters of Frida we aim to build up disabled women’s voices. We do that by being involved internationally, nationally, and locally. For example, we were at the European Parliament on domestic violence and disabled women. Lani Parker, a Sisters of Frida steering group member, identifies a distinct lack of spaces for disabled women ‘to come together as different disabled women’ sharing their rich and varied experiences, to challenge and support one another and to share learning. You can hear more from Lani in a short video clip on why we are working to create more specialised disabled women’s spaces.
I became a Fellow of the RSA in order to add my voice to the RSA’s platform and to engage in the many social and cultural activities that the RSA is involved with. At Sisters of Frida, we place significant emphasis on intersectionality – that our members’ varied identities comprising gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, and race mean that we belong to many communities and can share a great deal if society includes us. I look forward to continuing to work with the RSA and its Fellows in amplifying disabled women’s voices, and welcome contact from Fellows interested in the ongoing important work of the Sisters of Frida.