People "Always keep at it, follow up, never give up"

Dr. Sigrid Arnade is Honorary Professor at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin

Bettina Völter sits next to Sigrid Arnade on the stage in the ASH Audimax. Sigrid Arnade holds the certificate and a bouquet of flowers in her hands.
ASH Rector Prof. Dr Bettina Völter presents the certificate of appointment to Honorary Professor Dr Sigrid Arnade

Yesterday, the rector of ASH Berlin, Prof. Dr. Bettina Völter, appointed Dr. Sigrid Arnade as honorary professor at the suggestion of the Department of Social Work. This act was framed by a program on the topic "Visible yes - but then? Disabled women and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities", organized by Sigrid Arnade together with long-time colleagues such as Prof. Dr. Theresia Degener, Brigitte Faber, Sabine Häfner, Dinah Radtke and Martina Puschke.

Dr. Sigrid Arnade, born in 1956, has been campaigning for the legal equality of people with disabilities since the 1980s. She is an outstanding personality who stands for self-empowerment and self-organization.

Trained and graduated as a veterinarian with postgraduate studies in ecology, she advocated for species-appropriate animal husbandry and organic farming in the 1980s and became involved in the peace movement. As a freelance journalist, lecturer and project manager, she worked from the 1980s for the legal equality of disabled women and barrier-free nature experiences. She was a co-founder of the LEBENSNERV Foundation (Foundation for the Promotion of Psychosomatic Multiple Sclerosis Research) in 1991, the Network of Disabled Women in Berlin e.V. in 1995, the network ARTIKEL 3 (Association for Human Rights and Equality of Disabled People e.V.) in 1996 and Weibernetz - Bundesnetzwerk von FrauenLesben und Mädchen mit Beeinträchtigung e.V. (1998). As a representative of Weibernetz, Dr. Sigrid Arnade took part in the negotiations on the UN CRPD in New York from 1999 to 2009 in the German Disability Council and in 2005/2006 for the German Disability Council. From 2008 to 2009, she was coordinator of the campaign "alle inklusive! The new UN Convention" at the Federal Government Commissioner for the Interests of Disabled Persons. As executive director of Interessenvertretung Selbstbestimmt Leben in Deutschland e.V. (ISL), she worked on the implementation of the Disability Equality Act and on the Federal Participation Act from 2010 to 2019.

Dr. Sigrid Arnade has been honored several times for her many years of commitment: in 2004 with the Binding Prize (for nature and environmental protection), also in 2004 as a champion of the rights of disabled women with the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon, then in 2010 with the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class.

Dr. Sigrid Arnade's decades-long commitment to the interests of disabled women is instructive in several respects:

  • It is an example of political representation of interests and self-advocacy, an example of the successful demand for participation by social movements and thus also a corrective to a paternalistic orientation towards care.
  • It represents a critical diversity orientation that focuses on gender and Ableism in their interpenetration.
  • It includes a linkage of extensive professional and institutional knowledge (acquired in international and state institutions) with the (often overlooked) perspectives of affected women and girls and shows that such a linkage is decisive for an emancipatory shaping of the social.

The program for the awarding of the honorary professorship brought together central actors who had participated in the negotiations on the UN CRPD in New York in 2005 on behalf of the German Disability Council. After the introduction by Prof. Dr. Sigrid Arnade "From Invisible Objects to Human Rights Subjects", Martina Puschke moderated a panel discussion in which Sigrid Arnade, Theresia Degener, Dinah Radtke, Sabine Häfner and Brigitte Faber jointly recalled their common struggle to integrate women's rights into the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which at first seemed hardly promising.

In the shared recollection and storytelling, there were exciting retrospectives on the challenges of acting in the international arena and in different roles, on the creation of collective capacity for action and insights gained from this into the changeability of political structures. In the collective memory, experiences with the articulation of experiences, the addressing of political demands and the founding of organizations are stored as well as the handling of controversies.

The following presentations by Brigitte Faber and Martina Puschke also explored what has been successfully achieved and where disabled women continue to be significantly disadvantaged. For example, Brigitte Faber assessed the state of implementation of the UN CRPD with regard to Article 25 (health care) as poor, which is shown, for example, by the very low number of barrier-free gynecology practices in Germany. Martina Puschke traced the development of the implementation of the protection against violence Article 16 of the UN CRPD.

At the end of the event, Prof. Dr. Sigrid Arnade took stock of the common history ("With long breath and burning impatience"), naming elements of political work and success factors for successful cooperation: "Always keep at it, follow up, never give up". The scientific processing of empirical knowledge is a worthwhile field of research for Disability Studies.