Intersectionality in Development

This blog post discusses the importance, and often lacking presence, of intersectionality in development policy.

Intersectionalities are incredibly important in all areas of study, particularly studying disability and when planning to create disability policy. Intersectionality is studying the crossing of different (often marginalized) social identities. Intersectionality can be visualized as a Venn diagram, with each identity being a big circle and the complete identity of a person being the place where all these individual identities meet. It is important to view topics with an intersectional lens as various forms of social categories are never seen in a vacuum, but are interwoven together. Focusing on just one identity when trying to solve or better an issue neglects the numerous other factors that add to disenfranchisement and impede progress. However, despite the innate nature and undoubted importance of intersectionality, intersectionality is overlooked in the creation of policy, particularly international policy.



Looking at the Major Groups Framework, for example, there are nine major groups: women, children, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, businesses, civil society, and worker and trade unions. While the intentions of the nine major groups were well-intentioned, created in order to represent the key actors sectors of society, distinguishing 9 specific groups allows little room for multiple identities. Additionally, it creates an atmosphere where an individual who may prescribe to many of these identities may have to separate their complex identity and prescribe to just one in order to have representation [2]. By ignoring intersectionality, it completely nullifies the idea of inclusive sustainable development. Inclusive for one group, may not be inclusive for another. One reason why intersectionality is sometimes overlooked in international policy is that often global strategic frameworks must create targets, goals and evaluative methods for such large and complex issues that less prevalent identities get forgotten.

However, there are examples of international frameworks that focus on intersectionality, particularly the Sendai Framework. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction focused on 4 priorities for action and 7 global targets [3]. The Sendai Framework was complex in the sense that it did not simply focus on the homogenous group but delved into specific plans to aid niche groups and vulnerable communities.

It is important that intersectionality is not a topic that is discussed after the fact and then added into to programs or policies. Intersectionality is an innate part of each person’s identity and should be taken into account constantly during the creation of policies and frameworks to ensure addressing all challenges are met between various stakeholder groups.