Intersectionality: Why It's Core To Lasting Impact

What is it, and why should you care?

Why It Matters

Black feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term back in 1989. However, more recently, intersectionality has found its way into many entities, including the Government of Canada. 2019 may be the year that embedding intersectionality becomes mainstream across the world of social impact, according to Erika Gates-Gasse of the MATCH International Women's Fund.

Intersectionality is everywhere these days. The Canadian government uses it to help explain its “Gender Based Analysis Plus” approach to policy and program development. Even Forbes writes about its value in the workforce.

Black feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989 and since then, intersectionality has found its way into the work of many organizations, including the MATCH International Women’s Fund.

The goal is to create a more equitable world. If you don’t understand what intersectionality is or why it should matter to you, then read on.

At its most stripped down, intersectionality is the idea that different people have different identities that affect their life outcomes.

For example, a person’s gender, race, sexual orientation, and their different life circumstances, including poverty and wealth, interact and lead to different experiences and outcomes.

If we want to develop policies, projects, or products that make a lasting impact, taking these multiple experiences, identities, and life circumstances into account is crucial. When we do, we are more impactful because we are better able to identify opportunities for program creation and improvement.

When we don’t, we ignore the needs of people and, moreover, we create problems.

Take heart attack research as an example. Since research in this area traditionally focused on men, it missed that women have different symptoms and respond differently to treatments.

Thus, women are now more likely to die after a heart attack because they don’t get the care they need. Fail.

But, don’t be fooled; intersectionality is about more than just considering different identities and outcomes. It’s also about power.

Intersectionality asks us to learn about the overlapping forms of discrimination and inequalities that people experience because of their identities, as well as the different ways these discriminations interact to create unique experiences of oppression.

It pushes us to understand and be accountable for the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens that result from our systems and  which we recreate in our work .

Most importantly, intersectionality demands that we do more than just pay lip service.

It compels us to identify and centre the voices and experiences of those who are at the margins and invisibilized, and to be very clear about how we are intentionally shifting the power.

At The MATCH Fund, this means putting money directly into the hands of women human right defenders and feminist activists, both through our grants and our advocacy for systems change.

So here’s our question to you: How are you, in small or big ways, shifting the power?