Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality discusses the fact that different social identities and demographic groups cannot only be looked at in a vacuum; they are interconnected and will always be.  People identify with more than one demographic group, so when looking at how development is affecting certain groups we have to take these nuances into consideration to get a broader understanding of the situation.  Some demographics that are under examination when looking at development include race, gender, class, ethnicity, age, and more.  When looking at the interactions of multiple demographics within an individual or group, there are different outcomes and implications then if we were to only look at one.  For example, a disabled woman will face different challenges than a disabled child.  A disabled child may be excluded from receiving an education, and a disabled woman may not be able to access adequate prenatal care.

The Grand Challenges show us that participants from all these different groups need to be involved in development to help paint a more detailed picture of what the problems are, and how they can best be solved.  Stakeholder groups in international development include: Women, Children and Youth, Indigenous Peoples, Non-Governmental Organizations, Local Authorities, Workers and Trade Unions, Business and Industry, Scientific and Technological Community and Farmers.  These are the nine groups that the UN outlines in the Sustainable Development Goals, although there are many others.  Since the goals were redesigned, there has been a larger focus on paying mind to intersectionality among different stakeholder groups, and in making sure development practitioners have the opportunity to hear from many different viewpoints on what problems should be addressed.

The conceptual basis for my final capstone project on sustainable urban transport in São Paulo had a lot to do with the concept of intersectionality in development.  The recommendations I made came from multiple angles, and did not simply suggest the government expand transportation networks.  Since the issue affected urban residents in many different ways, I made recommendations that would also indirectly fix the problems seen in the city to fill in the gaps where simply building more public transit wouldn’t fix the issue.