Harnessing the Power of Intersectionality Data for Better Development Policies and Impact

Topic: Using Gender Data
Type: Knowledge Brief
Author: Mayra Buvinic, Shaida Badiee Date: March 2024

Intersectionality is a concept for uncovering and understanding the experiences and challenges faced by individuals who occupy multiple and intersecting group identities. Core components of the concept with data implications include a) ascribed attributes of a group defining identity; b) combined disadvantage from 2 or more group attributes; c) the importance of having data that captures ‘lived experience;’ d) participatory approaches to data collection; e) data ownership issues; and f) multiple disaggregation by gender and other attributes such as age, race, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) status.

Intersectionality has been integrated for many years within development practice. It is also central to global feminist advocacy and identity politics. Intersectionality is receiving increasing development attention as countries and agencies are discovering its importance in the context of achieving development goals, including SDG implementation, particularly for poverty reduction and gender equality, and the ‘leave no one behind’ ambitious agenda. Many development agencies such as UN Women, OECD, and the World Bank are placing intersectionality as a core dimension to consider when addressing gender inequalities. In addition, the concept has become central to global feminist advocacy and identity politics and has gone viral in the international press, resulting in multiple interpretations and political backlash.

The main emphasis of this concept note is to translate aspirational intersectionality concepts into practical guidance for developing countries, particularly with regards to data. This note is motivated by a need to bring together and learn from different strands of thought — development, feminist, and identity theories— to clarify the concept and its political implications and develop a commonly agreed upon approach that applies the core principles of intersectionality to inform development data and policies.
This concept note seeks to motivate discussion and feedback and is a work in progress and will be maintained as a live document. This note starts with a summary of the evolution of the concept of intersectionality in the fields of development, gender issues and development data to help ground the concept of intersectionality. It then outlines a framework with four main dimensions to characterize a successful intersectionality approach to data in development. Third, the note describes each dimension separately and analyzes challenges, risks and opportunities. The last forward-looking section outlines the basic requirements for implementing an intersectionality approach to data production and use in LMICs and lists priorities for the work ahead.

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