Intersectionality refers to the concept that social identities are overlapping, connected, and fall within systems of power, oppression, and discrimination. In other words, a person can be many things at once and each identity always has an “other” that it is pitted against and possibly discriminated against. In relation to inclusive sustainable development, intersectionality is key.Historically, vulnerable populations – like women, children, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) – have been excluded and absent from global development policy making it extremely difficult to elevate the groups that need it the most. My capstone on refugee menstrual health aims to highlight an intersectionality between global development and women’s health.

Recent policy and global frameworks – like the Major Groups Framework and the SDGs – have made great strides in the fight to make development much more inclusive of different intersectionalities. For example, the major groups included nine groups that were previously excluded from the decision-making process (women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, businesses and industry, scientific and technology community, and farmers). In addition, the SDGs are much more inclusive, describing a wide array of identity types in their indicators and sub-goals. The major groups framework allows many groups to have a say in the development decisions that directly affect their communities on the local level.

Despite the progress made to make development more intersections, there is still a major blind spot. For example, even though they make up about 15% of the world’s populations PWDs are still excluded as a major group and often struggle to literally get a seat at the table. As we’ve discussed this semester, PWDs face a very specific set of barriers in nearly every aspect of development from physical accessibility to cognitive accessibility. If these issues aren’t addressed and eradicated, development will never be fully inclusive. Any person can have a disability regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, etc. it is one of the only identities that can transcend and cut across nearly every identity. If you’re alive, you could have a disability. Because PWDs are often excluded and made invisible, policy often lacks providing necessary and adequate support. Therefore, if the development community can make every single policy keeping in mind that PWDs will be affected, we are one step closer to creating a much more inclusive, sustainable world.