Tracy Kajumba works as a principal researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and recently joined the ILC Gender Expert Network, a space for ILC members working on gender to learn from each other, share good practices and tools to promote gender justice.
30 percent of Tracy’s time is spent working on intersectionality and inequality, supporting work across IIED on race and racism, decolonisation, gender justice, and equitable partnerships. Thanks to her work, in 2021 Tracy was also featured among Apolitical’s 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy.
We talked to her about intersectionality, what it means for organisations to adopt an intersectional lens when it comes to community work, and how she hopes the ILC Gender Expert Network can help with that.
What is intersectionality and why should organisations care?
The word intersectionality has been around for a long time. But there’s a new craze for development practitioners to now say ‘we are using an intersectional approach.’ “One of the challenges is understanding how to use this terminology in practice,” says Tracy.
“The theory is there, yes, but how do we use intersectionality in practice?”
The term intersectionality was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw 30 years ago in her work on discrimination that black women faced in the US legal system. Since then, the terminology has been borrowed and used in many other contexts.
Tracy draws on Crenshaw’s work to refer to intersectionality as complex and cumulative identities which combine and overlap to affect how people (especially the marginalised) experience discrimination. Intersecting identities can be based on gender, caste, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion and disability.
The figure below is a visual depiction of intersectionality that has been adapted from the Knowledge Translation Programme. It explores the complex nature of intersecting social factors (gender, religion, occupation, etc.) and their interaction with compounding power structures (media, education system etc.) and forms of discrimination, for example sexism.
Different forms of discrimination and oppression are all interconnected. “Focusing on just one form of discrimination can be limiting,” Tracy explains. “Even among indigenous peoples, for example, not everyone has the same identity: there are women, disabled, and people that fall under different income categories. So, when designing programmes for a category such as indigenous peoples, it is important to tease out these different forms of disadvantages. By doing this, we are able to highlight specific priorities, required support and voices that ought to be heard.”
Conducting an intersectionality analysis: approach and best practices
While there is no single tool to tackle intersectional discrimination, organisations can start taking steps towards using the intersectionality approach for programme implementation by asking themselves a few questions:
- Who is in the room?
- Whose voice are we listening to?
- Whose priorities are we focusing on?
- What kind of outcome are we looking for?
Starting with those questions will help define what tools and resources are the most inclusive in each specific context. It may take a mix of tools, such as gender analysis frameworks, feminist approaches, racial equity frameworks, power analysis etc. all of which address specific inequalities and disadvantages.
Conducting an intersectionality analysis: existing challenges
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. “Most people have been struggling with getting it right on the normal gender binaries of men and women. So, if you add other layers and overlapping identities, the process becomes more complicated,” reflects Tracy.
There are also challenges regarding skills, time and financial resources. For organisations doing community work, using an intersectional lens means putting in more time and resources to be able to facilitate deeper processes to understand the impacts on groups such as women, youth, persons with disabilities, the poor and other categories.
An intersectional approach to land rights and access to land and resources and protection of land and territories from grabbing and appropriation is challenging, but significant!
Ensuring that all forms of discrimination are tackled would mean being more effective in protecting land rights.
But as Tracy explains, promoting such an approach requires an inclusive vision and a comprehensive strategy. Not all ILC members are yet equipped to that, hence the ILC Gender Experts Network (and the presence of resourceful experts such as Tracy) could represent the perfect opportunity to promote an intersectional approach to land rights.
For Tracy, the ILC Gender Expert Network can help facilitate peer learning across the ILC network, helping organisations to adopt an intersectional lens when it comes to their work. “The ILC Gender Expert Network brings together a wide range of experts from different countries, backgrounds, and experiences with the idea of creating a space to share knowledge, skills, tools, and approaches,” explains Tracy. “This is key, because it allows those with knowledge, specific skills or lived experiences to share with others working in their different contexts or with others who may want to learn from them.”
Building upon Tracy' s experience and knowledge, as well as on the wide expertise of the members of the ILC Gender Experts Network, ILC can grow as a gender just coalition. We trust that across the ILC membership there is a treasure of wisdom that we want to share with other members. This is why we created this network of gender experts and we will keep featuring them through dedicated blog posts while organising learning events for and with the Gender Experts.
The interview was conducted by ILC gender intern Prisca Adong