Untangling Intersectionality: Putting Inequalities Front and Centre
Photo Credit: Brumadinho, Brazil by Rodrigo Zaim/R.U.A.Foto Coletivo/Christian Aid
Kimberlé Crenshaw affirmed that intersectional identities such as race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics need to be considered to understand power patterns such as racism and sexism. This entails understanding that, for instance, the lived experiences of an indigenous woman living in rural Bolivia will be substantially different from those of a white woman living in urban Scotland. Kimberlé’s thoughts influenced and still influence many academics and practitioners from the civil society and beyond.
What does this mean in practice? It means we need to challenge our assumptions and untangle definitions of vulnerability to be aware of language and labels which stigmatise and disempower. It also means we must disaggregate data - using a least a minimum threshold such as sex, age and disability - in a way to flesh out the different levels of vulnerability experienced by individuals and communities.
Where political challenges may limit the extent to which data for marginalised groups can be gathered, realistic discussions with staff and partners are required to clarify what is safe, realistic and achievable. Lastly, this also entails analysing this data and pushing for alternative models of development that favours those most at risk of being left behind, i.e. looking at the root causes of inequalities such neoliberalism, colonialism and patriarchy.
A lot has been done already within Christian Aid to foment policy coherence in achieving gender mainstreaming through an intersectional lens. In our country-based work, we often find that certain groups are often further left behind, notably, but not exclusively, women and ethnic or religious minorities.
Christian Aid was one of the first agencies to raise the issue of inequality with reports such as Christian Aid and the ‘Leave No One Behind’ agenda; the Inequality Rising report to counter the narrative of ‘Africa Rising’; the Scandal of Inequality report produced by our Latin America and Caribbean Division explicitly using the intersectionality argument; and the Leave No Woman Behind report produced by Asia and the Middle East Division which analyses the multiple axes of inequality in development and humanitarian settings.
Some of our country programmes tackle gender-, race-, ethnicity-, caste- or religion-based exclusion, in others our work focuses on exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation or health status. We press governments, regional bodies and global institutions to implement policies and laws that combat inequality and discrimination. Working through partnerships with churches and interfaith networks, we challenge intolerance and promote inclusion.
The bottom line is that we strive for a more inclusive world where identity – gender, ethnicity, caste, religion, class, sexual orientation, disability, age and other social markers – is no longer a barrier to equal treatment.
This blog was written by Dr. Marianna Leite, Global Lead – Gender and Inequality at Christian Aid. Marianna will be joining us at our annual conference on 25 Septmeber 2019 as a panelist at the breakout session entitled 'Untangling intersectionality in programme design'.