After having been in many discussions recently which have struggled to extend the understanding of inequality beyond wealth, what was interesting in this forum was that wealth inequality was understood more as an underlying context. We were talking about inequalities (and there were many of them) in the context of austerity and increasing wealth inequalities in our society.

If we are to understand inequality in the context of increasing wealth inequalities, then using an intersectional lens helps to explain how people experience inequality according to different – intersecting – aspects of their identity. No one, for example, is just poor, or just working class, or just a woman or just a disabled person.  Each person experiences a combination of inequalities differently, and these will shape how each person responds in different situations.

When we consider for example how important it is to campaign for publicly funded mental health services for young people, many in the room might consider this to be unproblematic. But using an intersectional analysis makes clear that peoples’ experiences of mental health services have been very different, for different communities. For example, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK, have experienced mental health services as sites of discrimination and crisis.

And this brings us to the notion of power in civil society. Different communities and their organisations can exert and maintain power in their relationships with others, based on established ideas of privilege.

It will be particularly important to sharpen the focus on intersectionality when understanding how different aspects of inequality might shape the experience of public institutions, and civil society space. This conversation needs to continue to be central to our work as civil society organisations of whatever size and whatever power.

Read the full article about understanding intersectionality and power dynamics by Fanella Porter at Oxfam.