Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality is an important factor to consider when looking at inclusive sustainable development. Intersectionality is a concept for the multiple identities that people ascribe to and each of those identities combines within a person to create a unique experience and perspective on the world. It is these intersections that can create varying opinions within a major group. Female youth have a different identity and experience from male youth. One identity does not necessarily define your whole person, but rather the combination of many identities creates a complex identity that needs to be respected in each of the communities that that individual ascribes to.

Like we discussed in class, people with disabilities have many intersectionalities. By asking them to lump disabilities in with other major groups is to ignore their unique needs in each category of the major group’s framework. A female with disabilities in a rural, farming community has very different needs than a male, union worker with disabilities. All of these identities interplay with each other to create the experiences of individuals and the needs of a community.

When approaching inclusive sustainable development, all perspectives and experiences should be included. This is a major challenge for development. Including the voices from the major groups, who are often the most marginalized in society, will mean restructuring the goals, programs and outcomes of projects. But it is crucial that the intersectionalities of the community be considered. What are the gendered needs of this community? What are the needs of children, indigenous people, workers etc.? All of these factors need to be explored in a nuanced and cross sectional way. Also, development planners need to look at the needs of people not included in the major group’s framework, like persons with disabilities. Inclusive sustainable development means including everyone in every way. It is a tall order to fill and has yet to be achieved anywhere in the world. But by recognizing the intersectionalities of the people you are serving and their resulting needs, development can hopefully become a more nuanced and responsive field.