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Intersectionality: ask the other question

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What is intersectionality? How can you apply it in practice? What relevance does it have for WASH?

This short article delves into some of the key proponents and literature that gave rise to the concept of intersectionality, the debates that informed its evolution and use, and shares some insights on how to “ask the other question” to inform more nuanced development approaches.

When designing WASH interventions that endeavour to “leave no one behind”, “do no harm” and reduce inequalities,  it is important that practitioners, policy makers and researchers are aware of the debates on intersectionality, to inform good practice and contribute to the growing evidence base.

This article has emerged from a research project Gender in WASH: partnerships, workforce and impact assessment, currently underway led by ISF-UTS and partners. Key questions related to intersectionality explored through this project include:

  • If and how can working with gender equality organisations support WASH organisations to address power structures that lead to multiple levels of marginalisation, in order to contribute to broader progressive and inclusive social change?
  • What are key structural factors, including relevant legislation, policies and cultural norms affecting gender parity and the lived experiences of people in that workforce?
  • How can issues related to intersectionality be addressed within the design and sampling approach of a multi-dimensional index that seeks to assess the impacts of WASH programs on gender equality, and equally, in the design of appropriate qualitative methods?

The authors hope to support the WASH sector’s engagement with, and use of, the concept of intersectionality, so as to ensure the voice of those “multiply disadvantaged” individuals and groups are placed at the centre of  programming, and that the structural factors that give rise to inequality and oppression are effectively challenged.

Date: 17 June 2019