Formed in 2019, Feminists Against Ableism (FAA) is working to raise awareness in the Netherlands about the challenges encountered by people with a disability or chronic illness. ‘In the Netherlands, poor accessibility for people with disabilities is very common, and we score low on compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,’ says Xandra Koster, one of the group’s founding members. ‘Fortunately, activist circles are increasingly aware that attention should be paid to the disability perspective. And this must be seen alongside race, gender, and class as they intersect.’ The group traces its origins back to the 2019 Women’s March, when an online discussion emerged about how to make the Women’s March accessible to people with disabilities. The result was an online Disability March, enabling anyone who couldn’t leave the house to participate in the physical demonstration. Yet, the feminist disability justice activists still found it difficult to get their interests represented and lacked the support of the organisers of the Women’s March. Eventually, they founded their own WhatsApp group and later a Slack channel. In 2022, the group received a Spark grant.
Feeling at home
Sita Mohabir describes what membership in FAA means to her: ‘For a long time I was looking for people who understand how I feel. It’s difficult to understand what it’s like to be chronically ill and to be in pain every day if you don’t experience this yourself, and have the privilege not to think about how you are excluded daily. However, because travelling uses up a lot of energy for me, I was often unable to attend events where I could meet people who also face exclusion, and couldn’t participate in human rights actions. Thanks to Feminists Against Ableism gathering online, everyone can participate. When I first attended an online meeting of Feminists Against Ableism, I knew right away: I feel at home and embraced here. Everyone knows what you are talking about when you talk about micro-aggression, internalised ableism, and intersectional justice.’
FAA acts as a collective, with each member taking on the tasks they have the energy for. About 15 people are currently involved and another ten are on a waiting list. FAA advocates for the use of inclusive language and opposes ableism – discrimination against people with a physical, mental or psychosocial disability, a chronic condition or neurodiversity. The group is active on social media, and responds to requests for lectures, advice, and information. Members often speak in online events and have been guests on the feminist podcast DAMN HONEY. The group has organised online events on topics such as salary discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment. The group helped write the Pay Gap Manifesto together with other organisations, which was handed over to the Netherlands Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. FAA is also lobbying for a memorial on 6th May commemorating disabled and/or chronically ill people that were killed or died due to neglect during World War II, and that are subjected to the endemic violence that is still present today.
The Spark grant means a lot to Feminists Against Ableism: ‘It provides a safe embedding, both financially and emotionally,’ says Sita. ‘It is very nice to know that you are carried by an organisation that has values similar to yours. Mama Cash also gives us complete freedom to do things in crip time - the longer time-frame we need because our energy is often limited. In addition, our partnership with Mama Cash gives us more visibility and resources for professionalisation. As a result, we can make more people aware of ableism and the need for an inclusive policy.’