Intersectionality: A Crossroads

Intersectionality is the idea that we cannot address a single social condition without also addressing the other social conditions that exist. For example, “white feminism” defines the brand of modern feminism that often leaves out women of color, women who identify as LGBTQ+, women in poverty, or other important aspects of a women’s identity that need to be addressed under the umbrella of women’s rights. Without intersectionality, progress is simply not possible.

The same holds true for sustainable development. For example, we must acknowledge intersectionality that exists across the “major groups” framework as well as the discrimination that exists within each. For example, a queer disabled woman of color faces unique and important issues that should be addressed by AND across each of the major groups. Unfortunately, across global frameworks, we see limited mention of these intersectional identities and their importance in sustainable development. Their importance comes into mainly in that development is not sustainable or inclusive when it leaves out the issues or identities of an entire population.

However, even with the division the “major groups” framework presents, it also can be utilized as a unique opportunity for collaboration and creation of intersectional understanding. For example, women in the Indigenous People group may meet with the Women group in order to discuss their overlapping thoughts and issues. After meeting, the two groups can work together to ensure their experiences, needs, and suggestions are heard at the higher level.

In the past, the major groups framework also raised issue by excluding a large number of groups but thankfully, the NUA at Habitat III introduced sixteen other stakeholder groups who cover a large number of identities and issues.

In addition, other frameworks such as the SDGs are moving in the right direction such as SDG 4, which I focused on in my capstone project. SDG 4 focuses on the right to education and includes mention of multiple intersectionalities such as gender equality under education as well as the importance of granting access to education for persons with disabilities.

Overall, intersectionality serves as a crossroads for many identities and issues and when included in the global frameworks can have a huge impact in working toward truly inclusive sustainable development.