According to Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality in the most fundamental sense reflects how sociocultural, economic, and political factors such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and other individual characteristics overlap and influence people differently. The term intersectionality has expanded from this original context to an approach that offers a lens through which we can see where power comes, collides, and intersects. An intersectional approach allows for holistic understanding of individual positioning in societal hierarchies and accounts for the complexities of life, especially regarding more privileged vs. more oppressed identity groups. An intersectional approach calls attention to the fact that we cannot simply view an issue as one of race or gender but must recognise that it is a problem that needs to consider all parts of an individual’s identity. As advocates for gender equality, it becomes a key responsibility to be able to consider all these factors contributing to women’s marginalisation and discrimination.
Intersectionality operates in complex ways in the status quo. It is important for intersectional approaches to be delivered in VAWDASV services by factoring in these different variables to individual identity. Advocacy only reflecting experiences of some women, will fail to achieve equality. Further, a common issue that often gets overlooked in practice is access to resources to operationalise intersectionality in practice. There is an urgent need for sustained funding to support wider outreach. Additionally, collaborations with organisations and individuals to expand base resources also help. Welsh Women’s Aid with its member organisations have always been committed towards ensuring an intersectional approach is followed while delivering VAWDASV services, which is also reflected in key asks in our Change that Lasts Manifesto 2023.
Importance of utilising an intersectional approach while delivering VAWDASV services
Gender-based violence, a pervasive issue affecting millions worldwide, often intersects with various facets of an individual’s identity, influencing their experiences and access to support. To understand the depth of this issue and its implications, it’s crucial to adopt an intersectional approach—one that acknowledges the diverse identities and experiences of survivors. Despite the universal impact of violence against women on individuals from diverse backgrounds, not all survivors receive equal treatment in society. Biases ingrained in our social fabric unfairly shape perceptions of survivors, creating daunting barriers that hinder their access to care and much needed support.
Statistics reveal alarming disparities in accessing support for survivors with intersecting identities. According to UN Women, individuals from marginalised communities are more likely to face barriers in accessing adequate assistance. Moreover, studies consistently have highlighted disparity in accessing support for survivors with intersecting identities. At Welsh Women’s Aid, our approach is rooted in intersectionality, enabling us to understand survivor experiences within societal perceptions. This understanding is crucial in unravelling the barriers they face in accessing care amidst complex traumas and oppressive systems that pervade their everyday lives. Delving into these layers equips us with insights into how an abuser might exploit societal factors to exert control and hinder a survivor’s ability to seek help, especially when engaging with law enforcement.
In the journey of a survivor, imagine an immigrant with limited English facing the dual trauma of domestic violence and the complexities of their immigrant experience. These intertwined struggles create formidable barriers, from language obstacles to fears linked to their immigration status, making seeking help or trusting law enforcement an uphill battle. In these moments, an intersectional approach emphasises empathy and understanding, recognizing the intricate challenges and the need to dismantle these barriers with care. It’s about not just aiding a survivor but also lighting a path through the process with empathy, ensuring they feel supported and empowered.
Welsh Women’s Aid CTL Manifesto and our commitment to intersectionality
Our manifesto, “Change That Lasts for Wales,” calls for urgent action to prioritise violence against women and girls, domestic abuse, and sexual violence (VAWDASV) in the agenda of the next UK Government. The manifesto aims to address key areas crucial for creating lasting change and ensuring independence, freedom, and liberation from oppression for women and children.
Addressing the intersectionality of gender-based violence, the manifesto underscores the urgent need to support migrant survivors by abolishing the policy of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Highlighting the disproportionate impact on migrant women, it stresses the manipulation of immigration status as a means of control by perpetrators, leaving survivors frightened to seek help due to the lack of support and fear of repercussions.
“We want a world in which women and children live fear-free from domestic abuse, sexual violence, and all forms of violence against women, achieving independence, freedom, and liberation from oppression,” the manifesto states, encapsulating the core vision of the initiative.
The manifesto further emphasises the necessity of a holistic approach, recognizing that VAWDASV is deeply rooted in societal norms and attitudes of gender inequality. It advocates for a comprehensive whole-system public health approach underpinned by trauma-informed, strengths-based, and needs-led support from all services and organisations.
“We believe that everyone must live a life without fear, challenging structures, practices, and norms harboring gender inequality to eradicate VAWDASV,” the manifesto asserts, stressing the collective responsibility to dismantle these systems of discrimination.
Moreover, we call for a revamp of the justice system, emphasising the need to implement recommendations to address systemic concerns in identifying and responding to domestic abuse within the court system.
Survivors’ access to affordable and adequate housing and an inclusive benefits system are pivotal aspects addressed in the manifesto. The manifesto highlights the need for specific training for housing personnel to comprehend diverse forms of abuse and the situations faced by survivors seeking refuge or a new home.
“Being able to access their own funds is vital for the safety and well-being of survivors,” the manifesto points how financial barriers are weaponised by perpetrators to maintain control.
Legislative reforms are also at the forefront, demanding revisions to impending bills and acts to ensure adequate protections and resources for survivors, particularly migrant women.
In urging all political parties to act, we seek a commitment to legislative changes that will safeguard survivors and dismantle the barriers preventing them from seeking help and rebuilding their lives.
The “Change That Lasts for Wales” manifesto serves as a clarion call for an intersectional, comprehensive approach to combatting gender-based violence, emphasising the need for immediate, collaborative, and systemic action to create a future where all individuals can live without fear, oppression, or violence.
For any individual or organisation advocating for gender equality, intersectionality must form the foundation. Understanding gender-based violence necessitates acknowledging the diversity of experiences among survivors. An intersectional lens not only addresses disparities but also promotes empowerment and inclusivity. By advocating for policies and services that embrace intersectionality, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for all survivors.