When women’s empowerment isn’t enough: Provocations on power to address intersectional inequality

Wednesday 23 March, 12.30pm EST. Boss Room, 8th Floor, UN Church Center, 777 UN Plaza.

The panel will bring insights together from a diverse field of cutting-edge work on unpaid care, gender violence, sexuality and masculinities. The Sustainable Development Goal principles reflect a shared commitment by the international development community to ‘leave no one behind’. Evidence from research, however, reveals the extent to which development is undermined by a failure to recognise power in much work on gender, sexuality and women’s empowerment. This session will present findings from research partnerships that have adopted an intersectional approach to sustainable development.

The speakers will explore how intersecting forms of inequality are often masked by a singular focus on women and girls, and on normative ideas of gender and sexuality. For example recent research on sexuality, poverty and law from IDS finds that trans-women are often excluded from interventions focused on gender equality and empowerment further entrenching their poverty and marginalisation. Emerging evidence on men, boys and gender equality also indicates that an exclusive focus on women and girls means that men and boys’ own experiences of gender-based violence and oppression are not being recognised, nor is their potential to help to address violence.  Work on Women’s Economic Empowerment and Unpaid Care at IDS also reveals that focusing primarily on women and girls’ economic empowerment can reinforce gender norms, mask critical power struggles and side-line care issues. The session will explore how complexities of gender power relations are often obscured, as are intersections of sexuality, ethnicity, class, age and disability that compound inequality. 

This session will:   

  • Offer space for divergent and emergent reflections on challenges in working to promote more inclusive approaches to gender equality and empowerment in the context of sustainable development in different contexts.
  • Explore how power and privilege emerge in these different contexts.
  • Share strategies that researcher-practitioners have identified to take account of oppressions and restrictions and to move beyond them.