Intersectionalities and Sustainable Development

Intersectionality has become quite a” buzzword” both within academics and everyday life. Intersectionality and the impact of intersectionality in institutions has become increasingly discussed. Intersectionality refers to the interconnectedness of social categories such as race, class, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, etc. These categories create overlapping systems of discrimination, and puts people at a disadvantage. Intersectionality calls for the simultaneous examination of these identities, how they relate to each other, and how they relate to personal development. Intersectionality also bring up the idea of power and how power has created social hierarchies that perpetuate the advantage or disadvantage of certain aspects of identities.


Intersectionality and inclusive development are widely interdependent. SDGs should take an intersectional approach, to account for gender, youth and disability and how they will influence each other. For instance, women are already a marginalized group, in comparison to men. However women throughout different communities will face different types of oppression to put them at a further disadvantage. Economic oppression for example: Some women, depending on ethnicity, race and class will have larger opportunities for economic mobility than others. Class widely intersects with access to education, as those of a higher class will be able to obtain more formal education. Education in turn, allows for more opportunities to increase social and economic status. This example highlights the interconnectivity of identities, and how the overlapping of identities relates to power structures and hierarchies.Women with disabilities are put at an even heightened disadvantage. The needs for not only those with disabilities, but for women with with disabilities is often underrepresented within social reform and development strategies. Therefore, it is necessary that SDGs and other united nations organizations work to create ways to understand how these identities will hurt overall development, exclude individuals and in turn create tactics and goals that work to include them.   


As populations are increasing life expectancy, it is also important to understand the intersectionality of age and development. For instance, older people have a higher risk of developing a disability. There needs to be more research on how age and older populations can be taken into account in policy reform.


Kimberle Crenshaw, a scholar who is most noted for her work on intersectionality and African-American women. She catches the essence of how intersectionality impacts inclusive sustainable development when she states, “If efforts began with addressing the needs and problems of those who are most disadvantaged and with restructuring and remaking the world more necessary, then others who are singularly disadvantaged would also benefit.”

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