Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

According to The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), “Intersectionality is a tool for analysis, advocacy and policy development that addresses multiple discriminations and helps us understand how different sets of identities impact on access to rights and opportunities.” Historically, white men have benefitted most from society (at least in the US) and all others have been substantially disadvantaged in a variety of ways. While societies have become substantially more progressive and inclusive, many people are still vulnerable and disprivileged from having a higher quality of life. This is largely in part because because people live multiple, layered identities that are rarely considered in their entirety. This is to say that often “vulnerable” people are generalized into larger groups but their personal overlap among those categorizations goes unrealized or ignored. For example, the UN developed “Major Groups and other Stakeholders” (MGoS) to better engage and incorporate specific sectors of society into sustainable development initiatives. These nine sectors of society are: women; children and youth; indigenous peoples; non-governmental organizations; local authorities; workers and trade unions; business and industry; scientific and technological community; and farmers. While this is a positive effort in achieving wider participation and consideration on global issues, it clearly falls short. For one, Persons with Disabilities are terribly ignored in this framework and they make up 15% of the world population. Moreover, intersectionalities are not supported by these groupings and thus people who carry several of these identities (which is the majority of populations) are forced into dividing their needs and thus identity. For example, a female, indigenous farmer would have to reach out to three major groups and explain how each aspect of her identity was discriminated or disadvantaged by certain policies, rather than how her problems have been a consequence of a combination of these identities and how she could be better assisted overall. This is not a inclusive nor sustainable way to achieve inclusive sustainable development. Instead, there needs to be a bottom-up approach and a wider framework for acknowledging and aiding members of more than one identity and how those identities simultaneously produce oppression. This not only illustrates how policies, programs, and services in one aspect of life are inevitably linked to others, but also provides a greater understanding of how various identities impact overall levels of opportunity, development and access to rights (AWID).


Major Groups: