by Alicia Kurt
As global crises continue to affect vulnerable communities worldwide, more humanitarian workers are needed to help and assist those in need. It’s estimated that around 303 million people require humanitarian assistance worldwide, a significant increase from the decades-high number of people in need last year. The issues faced by humanitarian workers can vary from reducing poverty, improving the quality of education, promoting public health, and combating climate change.
Although the assistance of humanitarian workers remains indispensable, new approaches are necessary to address the changing needs of vulnerable and marginalized communities. One of the ways humanitarian organizations can do this is by adapting an intersectional approach to humanitarian issues.
Intersectionality in Humanitarian Work
When tackling social issues, it’s crucial to remember that people have different intersecting identities and roles. By keeping this in mind, individuals and organizations can give better humanitarian services that don’t excludegroups on the frontlines of crises. While humanitarian organizations enthusiastically provide necessities for all people, they may overlook issues such as gender inequality and disability in aid provision. For this reason, a greater consideration of intersectionality is necessary to adequately support all people in need, regardless of their gender and circumstances.
Studies showed that women and adolescent girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and violence, including gender-based violence. The discrimination and abuse they experience are heightened during and after disasters. For example, women, especially transgender women, are disproportionately affected by conflict and displacement due to existing gender roles,systemic oppression, and inequality in evacuation and disaster aid.
Moreover, individuals with disabilities face many inequities in times of crises and disproportionate rates of displacement.. People with disabilities may face barriers in evacuating and seeking aid following disasters. . The disruption of social and healthcare services may also prevent individuals with medical needs from accessing the medications and services they require, which may negatively affect their health. These scenarios emphasize how humanitarian aid needs to be integrated with an intersectional analysis of conflict, particularly in policymaking, to address the necessities that most vulnerable communities encounter.
Intersectionality in Sustainability
Apart from natural disasters and conflicts, intersectionality promotes environmental justice and sustainability. Some experts suggest the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance due to climate-related disasters will double to 200 million by 2050. This highlights how climate change is driving demand for humanitarian aid, increasing the awareness that the climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian aid workers are not only limited to helping people affected by disasters, they also participate in sustainable development projects, especially regarding climate justice and the global climate response.
Consequently, an intersectional sustainability framework is useful in understanding how all humanitarian topics, such as food, pollution, and land use, are inherently related to issues of race, gender, social class, and all systemic oppression. Studies on intersectional climate change shared how traditional urban climate adaptation practices are exclusionary, inequitable, and technocratic. These outdated methods aggravate the structural causes of vulnerability and undermine the need for deeper social reforms. The researchers explained that the current climate adaptation and resilience developments usually overlook historical and ongoing patterns of uneven and inequitable development. This worsens social and environmental vulnerabilities for marginalized groups, causing unjust and maladaptive externalities.
Case in point, climate justice is reproductive justice. Our previous article asserts that reproductive justice is climate justice because pregnant people are more vulnerable to the health effects caused by environmental pollutants. This underscores how climate change threatens the right of parents to raise their children in a safe and sustainable community. By recognizing the importance of intersectionality in climate justice, key stakeholders can develop better strategies that promote advancement without putting vulnerable communities at risk.
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Alicia Kurt is a freelance writer and a human and environmental advocate. Despite being a full-time mom of two kids, she still finds time to write and share her opinions on her causes to prompt changes even from home.