Today I attended an event at the House of Lords to celebrate Voicebox Cafés work supporting underrepresented women to participate in public life.
As a sound artist I have worked in some eccentric places but none quite as grand as the House of Lords!
I was there in my capacity as a BreakthroughUK Trustee to help promote their new Manchester based women’s project – D3 (Democracy Disability & Devolution).
There were lots of interesting speakers at the celebration talking about a wide range of empowering projects. I was particularly impressed by the young women from Manchester’s Women Making History project talking passionately about international and domestic ‘period poverty’. This was a subject I briefly touched upon in my sound piece about disabled women’s health.
Disabled women’s healthcare is also a topic that BreakthroughUK is addressing through their health screening workshops. Running at the same time as D3 these initiatives will support, encourage and empower local disabled women to take action and become more politically active.
D3:Democracy Disability & Devolution
Supporting disabled women to get involved in the political process is so important because we are particularly underrepresented.
According to the Fawcett Society only TWO women MPs identify as being disabled people – under half a percent of the House of Commons! Yet the ONS estimates that approximately 8% of the working age population are disabled women.
Our lack of representation can be partly attributed to a global culture of misogynism within the political process. But I also think we face a hybrid form of misogynism, as illustrated by the awful sexism and ableism Freyja Haraldsdóttir recently experienced from other Icelandic MPs.
This intersection of misogyny and ableism is apparent within all aspects of the political process – from voting to standing in elected office.
In the UK there has even been issues at AWS (All Women Shortlists), such as the lack of step free speaking platforms and ableist attitudes. For example, one AWS candidate kept emphasising her ‘physical prowess’ during Hustings. A debating tactic which would be questioned, at the very least, if she was emphasising being white or heterosexual etc .
We have a political culture of macho-ableism which favours the loudest, rather than the most suitable, candidate. Alongside the lack of basic adjustments, this sends the message that disabled women are not expected to be part of the political process.
Recently this problem has been highlighted by shadow minister Marsha de Cordova after House of Commons authorities provided an inaccessible meeting room for an event being held to celebrate the UN’s international day of disabled people!
Hopefully initiatives like D3 and VoiceBox Cafes will go some way in changing this status quo.
For more information about D3 please see the Breakthrough website: https://www.breakthrough-uk.co.uk/democracy-disability-devolution.