Intersectionality

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Intersectionality refers to the way in which multiple forms of discrimination – based on gender, race, sexuality, disability and class, etc. – overlap and interact with one another to shape how different individuals and groups experience discrimination.

As a network, addressing patriarchy, gender inequality and the abuse of women’s rights remains the primary focus of GADN’s political agenda and our particular contribution to social justice movements. But we recognise that gender inequality cannot be understood and effectively confronted in isolation from the myriad of other discriminations and forms of oppression that women face.

Taking an intersectional approach means being mindful of three main points:

  1. While all women are subject to gender discrimination in one way or another, it is not just gender but also race, socio-economic class and other factors which shape their experiences of discrimination, marginalisation and oppression.

  2. An individual’s particular experience of intersecting discriminations is unique; it is not simply the sum of different discriminations.

  3. As a political movement, feminism must tackle all forms of discrimination and oppression whether based on gender, race or class.

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Environment

 AYALA, UGANDA  - JULY 19: Women from the Self Help Group Alita Kole, taking care of their crops that they own together as a group. This gardening activity is part of an income generating activity supported by Reproductive Health Uganda and enables them to have financial independence and provide for their family needs. July 19, 2014 in Ayala, Uganda.  (Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images)..

Environmental degradation and climate change have severe consequences for everyone, but disproportionately impact marginalised people, particularly women and children.

Discriminatory social and cultural structures and norms result in unequal ownership of, and access to, natural resources – land, water and productive assets – as well as unequal decision-making. This limits women’s opportunities to participate in, contribute to and benefit from environmental policies and programmes.

Achieving gender equality would be good for the environment. Women tend to have smaller ecological footprints than men and engage in more sustainable behaviours.

In many parts of the world, their extensive experience makes them an invaluable source of knowledge on sustainable environmental management – meaning women have huge potential for bringing about positive change.

Yet there is limited recognition of what women can contribute to sustainable development and environmental protection. At the same time, failure to understand and address gender dimensions within environmental policies and projects leads to wasted resources, and could have negative effects on household welfare, gender equality and environmental sustainability.

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The Gender and Environment Working Group raises awareness among development and environmental NGOs that gender and the environment are interconnected and need to be addressed together.

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The roles traditionally assigned to women and girls (for example as food growers, fuel and water gatherers or carers) make them more dependent on natural resources and stable climate conditions, while extreme weather events often increase their burdens.  

Gender-blind policies

Women play a critical role in sustaining communities and managing natural resources, but despite this their contributions are often undervalued and neglected.

Gender-specific inequalities and barriers prevent their participation in environmental debate and action at all levels. Alongside their unequal access to resources, this hinders women’s ability to adapt to climate change and to respond to events such as drought, soil degradation and deforestation. It also leads to gender-unaware, and therefore ineffective, environmental policies.

Solutions

Considerations of gender and environment are crucial to enable communities to achieve resilience and adapt to and recover from environmental challenges. Women are powerful agents of change and can play a vital role in protecting the resources upon which they, and all of us, depend.

The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action proved forward-thinking, and its strategic objectives remain relevant today:

  • Involve women actively in environmental decision-making at all levels.

  • Integrate gender concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes for sustainable development.

  • Strengthen or establish mechanisms at the national, regional, and international levels to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women.

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Disability

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In the global south, women constitute three quarters of people with disabilities.

Throughout the course of their lives, women and girls with disabilities face discrimination – such as exclusion from healthcare, education and employment – on the basis of both their disability and their gender. This is rooted in unequal power relations – political, social and economic – and results in women and girls with disabilities being among the most left behind in society.

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GADN Working Group

The Disability and Gender Working Group brings together professionals from UK-based mainstream and disability-specific organisations, independent consultants and disabled people’s organisations around the world. Group members share experiences and learning on issues faced by disabled women and girls, and promote the integration of disability into gender work as well as gender into disability work.

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The challenge

Intersecting inequalities

Women and girls with disabilities face sustained marginalisation and discrimination throughout their lifetimes. They are systematically excluded from education, healthcare and employment on the basis of both their disability and their gender.

They are between two and four times more likely to experience gender-based and sexual violence than non-disabled women and girls, and over a longer period of time. The risk of experiencing all forms of partner violence and non-partner sexual violence increases with the severity of impairment.

Women and girls living with disabilities are also less likely to achieve access to justice or to have opportunities for civil or political participation.

This deep-rooted discrimination results in women and girls of all ages with disabilities being among the most economically and socially excluded members of society.

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Girls’ education

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Education gives people the best chance to fulfil their potential in life and determine their own futures. This brings huge benefits not just for the individual, but for their children and entire communities and countries.

Despite significant progress on access to education in recent years, girls and young women are less likely to finish school than boys and young men. This is particularly true for women and girls living in poverty or with disabilities.

Millions of girls remain out of school due to multiple, intersecting barriers. These include social norms that prioritise boys’ education and make girls responsible for care work at home and, violence on the way to or in school.

Without education, girls are less likely to have control over their own income and more likely to face early and forced marriage and intimate partner violence.

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GADN Working Group

The Girls’ Education in International Development Working Group enables practitioners, academics and other partners to discuss the latest research, programmes and policies on girls’ education. The Group work together to conduct, synthesize and dissem

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The challenge

Gender Barriers

Structural inequality within families and communities prevent and limit girls’ education; these include traditional attitudes about women’s role as caregivers, and expectations of early marriage and pregnancy.

For girls who do go to school, the quality of education is often poor because class sizes are large, schools lack basic equipment and teachers are under-qualified. Gender-biased or gender-blind policies, exacerbate the problem - such as a lack of clean water, gender-segregated latrines and sanitary facilities. It is made worse by a shortage or absence of female teachers as role models.

These barriers are so persistent that many girls who do enrol, fail to progress from primary to secondary school. At a secondary and higher education level, the gender gap widens, particularly in subjects traditionally seen as masculine such as science and maths. At university level, women who do enrol often don’t pursue higher-level degrees.

Education is essential for women to attain equality, and has a significant multiplier effect. Educated girls and women tend to be healthier, earn more income and are more likely to access healthcare services.

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Humanitarian issues

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During conflict or humanitarian emergencies, human rights abuses are more likely – and women and girls are most at risk.

In the early stages of an emergency, they face additional barriers to receiving life-saving assistance, because their voices are not heard or, they are not present when decisions are taken. When the initial crisis passes, women and girls have less say than men and boys in rebuilding their communities and promoting peace.

The humanitarian system is male-dominated and power is concentrated within institutions and agencies in the global north.

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GADN Working Group

The Humanitarian Working Group focuses on addressing the specific consequences of gender inequality and gender-based violence in humanitarian contexts. The Group aims to ensure that women’s and girls’ needs and rights are prioritised through specific policy, funding and programming in humanitarian settings, resulting in their empowerment and greater recognition of their role and value within their communities.

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The challenge

Gendered experiences of humanitarian crises

From the onset of an emergency to post-disaster recovery, crises affect women, girls, boys, and men differently, and exacerbate existing power inequalities. This means that women and men’s needs differ, as do their resources, capacities and coping strategies.

Voice and inclusion

Women and girls have a lot to contribute in preparing for and responding to crises.  However, often their voices are not heard in disaster prevention and response, or in post-emergency reconstruction, peacebuilding and reconciliation. This leads to incomplete solutions and ineffective responses – both for women and for whole communities.

Solutions

Women must be included in decision-making about the assistance and protection they and their communities need.

Humanitarian responses should:

  • Promote women’s leadership in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

  • Highlight and act on the particular risks women and girls face in emergencies.

  • Ensure that more resources and decision-making power are shifted to the local and national organisations on the frontline of an emergency response.

Humanitarian action can also potentially present opportunities for enabling new and more progressive gender roles and relationships to emerge as societies are rebuilt.

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Women’s political participation and leadership

 August 2, 2015. LIMA, PERU. Paulina Luza (Center) Secretary General of SINTRAHOGARP (Sindicato de Trabajadores del Hogar del Peru) at its headquarters with members of the organization. SINTRAHOGARP (Sindicato de Trabajadores del Hogar del Peru). SINTRAHOGARP is one of several organizations of informal workers in Lima that works closely with WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) in several initiatives, including to improve capacities of membership-based organizations through training in advocacy, communications, regulatory and legal frame work, occupational health and safety , and social inclusion campaigns. (Photo by Juan Arredondo/Reportage by Getty Images)
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From the local to the global level, women’s leadership and political participation are restricted.

Women are underrepresented in leading positions in international institutions, government and local community fora, they are also underrepresented as voters.

Discriminatory social norms restrict women’s role to the private realm of the household: unpaid care work; lack of economic opportunities; social expectations that men are natural leaders, violence against women in public life, and laws and political institutions that disregard women’s rights all further restrict women’s political participation. Women are also less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to get access to political leadership roles.

Women’s equal political participation requires that more women are present in national parliaments, local councils and community associations. To make this a reality, the barriers to women’s participation have to be removed.

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GADN Working Group

The Women’s Participation and Leadership Working Group shares information and best practice. It seeks to influence the sector’s approach to increasing women’s participation, leadership, influence and decision-making.

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The challenge

Gender balance in political participation and decision-making has been an internationally agreed target for nearly 25 years, but as of January 2019, only three countries have 50% or more women in parliament: Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia.

Solutions

Women have the right to influence decisions that affect their lives, whether in the household, community, national governments or international institutions.

Achieving women’s participation and leadership requires understanding power dynamics and working with women and men to ensure equal access to, and influence in, decision-making processes.

Raising awareness, providing training for women political candidates, running campaigns on gender equality, lobbying for legislative reforms to ensure women’s fair access to political spheres, and elections that uphold women’s rights can all increase women’s political engagement.

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Violence against women and girls

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Across the world, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights, with a third of all women experiencing this kind of violence during their lifetime.

In every society, women and girls experience violence because of their gender. This includes physical, sexual, psychological and economic forms of violence, both within and outside of the home. Violence towards women and girls is often legitimised, justified or ignored due to discriminatory social norms, and fuelled by gender inequality. In some cases, women are even blamed for the violence committed against them and stigmatised as a result of it. In turn, VAWG undermines women and girls’ ability to control their own lives, restricting their choices and freedoms.

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GADN Working Group

The VAWG Working Group influences the UK Government’s approach to VAWG policy and programming to ensure it is nuanced and rights-based. The Group also advocates for the UK Government to drive international action to eliminate VAWG.

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The challenge

The UN defines violence against women and girls as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

Wide reaching impact

VAWG impacts women both in the short and long term, physically, psychologically and practically. It profoundly affects women’s choices and general wellbeing, and prevents them from fully participating in society or achieving their potential.

VAWG has negative consequences not only for women but also for their families, communities and whole countries. The costs are financial as well as physical and emotional – ranging from greater healthcare and legal expenses to losses in productivity, draining national budgets and undermining overall development.

Solutions

  • Work to shift negative norms and values legitimising violence.

  • Active engagement of women’s rights organisations and feminist movements.

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Preventing sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment

 SHOMPOLE, KENYA  - JUNE 11 : Maasai tribe young mothers gather for a forum organized by AMREF, and geared at family planning and other sexual reproductive health options. During the discussions, the community health worker demonstrates condom usage, and other options for contraceptives. June 11, 2014 in Shompole, Kenya. (Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images).

Following revelations in 2018 of sexual abuse by INGO staff, there has been an increased focus in the development sector on ‘safeguarding’ as a way to prevent incidents of sexual harassment and abuse.

GADN has been working with members organisations to highlight the way in which these abuses are rooted in unequal power relations. Tackling the root causes of gender inequality must be part of any safeguarding response.

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GADN Working Group

The Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (PSEAH) Working Group provides a platform for sharing learning and promoting best practice. The Group works to ensure that the UK Government’s response to PSEAH is rooted in an understanding of gender and other power inequalities.

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International institutions and processes

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The policies and programmes of international institutions such as the UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have an impact on the lives of women and girls in the global south.

GADN works to ensure that the institutions have a positive impact, and challenges them where reform is needed, particularly through the Gender Equality and Macroeconomics (GEM) Project.

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UK Government and Politics

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GADN provides the Government with technical advice on how to best achieve gender equality.

At the same time, we challenge the Government to broaden its commitment to achieving gender equality and change its approach where needed.

The UK Government’s approach to international gender equality is outlined in its Strategy Vision for Gender Equality.

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INGO programmes and gender mainstreaming

 ACCRA, GHANA - August 11, 2015: Informal head porter (or kayayei) Daina Otoo sells fish in Agbogbloshie Market. With support from WIEGO, many kayayei in Agbogbloshie have experienced improved social protection. In 2012, WIEGO facilitated a Health Policy Dialogue in Accra with key government, civil society, and informal sector stakeholders, including the kayayei themselves. This allowed the kayayei to discuss and share experiences of Ghanas National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) with key health policymakers, who identified possible ways to incorporate these workers into the scheme and explored strategies to provide them with support in accessing health services. It was a successful result: 1,000 kayayei were able to register and gain better information on available health care services through the Ghanaian National Insurance Scheme. August 11, 2015 in Accra, Ghana. (Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images Reportage). FULLY RELEASED - CONSENT NUMBER: ACC015

International non-governmental organisations (INGOs) fund and support partner organisations and development programmes in the global south.

Some of these programmes specifically address gender equality issues or women’s rights. However, all INGO programmes – whatever the focus – should be designed and implemented based on an understanding of gender dynamics, with a view to promoting equality and ending discrimination. Known as ‘gender mainstreaming’.

A gender mainstreaming approach ensures that development takes into account the specific needs, interests and views of women; do not inadvertently harm women and girls or perpetuate damaging social norms; and actively contribute to overcoming the gender injustice that fuels poverty and undermines sustainable development.

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GADN Working Group

The Programmes Working Group brings together INGO practitioners working on programme delivery and implementation (rather than advocacy). Members share different approaches to achieve gender equality through and in development work, and learn from each other about opportunities, trends and innovations in gender equality work.

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Women's Economic Justice

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Being able to generate a regular and independent source of income has a significant impact on a woman’s ability to make decisions and have control over her life.

Yet too often, women around the world are denied the opportunity to earn a decent living.

Barriers to women’s economic justice include constraints on time due to unpaid care work, social norms that limit women’s freedom outside the home, lack of access to finance to start a business, discriminatory policies at work, and the threat of violence or harassment in the workplace.

Gender equality will only be achieved when women have equal access to, and control over resources, and equal participation and influence in economic decision-making. Women’s economic empowerment means women can benefit from economic activities on terms which recognise the value of their contribution, respect their dignity and make it possible for them to negotiate a fair income.

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Gender Equality and Macroeconomics (GEM) Project

In the GEM Project, GADN challenges the way in which high-level economic decisions about resources negatively affect women’s rights and gender equality around the world. The project focuses on:

GADN Working Group

The Women’s Economic Justice Working Group provides a forum for GADN members and other like-minded organisations to build alliances and consensus on the structural nature of women’s economic inequality. The Group develops recommendations to influence the UK Government’s international policies.

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Women’s economic empowerment won’t be achieved until governments fundamentally rethink their approach to economic policy. This means recognising the whole spectrum of work – paid and unpaid, inside and outside the home, formal and informal.

Crucially, governments and policy-makers must realise that economic growth alone will not bring about gender equality, and that a more nuanced approach to fostering growth, and redistributing its benefits, is needed. This will require, for example, creating good quality or ‘decent’ work for women, which guarantees basic conditions such as minimum wages and the right to organise. For the many women who are not in formal paid employment, universal social protection schemes that are not linked to employment contributions are particularly important.

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