Intersectionality Resource Guide and Toolkit: An Intersectional Approach to Leave No One Behind


Author(s)/editor(s): A. H. Monjurul Kabir, T. Thomson, A. Abukito, C. Kirungi, D. J. Pérez Montúfar, D. Jigjid, E. Sánchez, G. Khoury, A. Salelkar, K. Nair, K. Adhikari, P. Ochieng, P. Mahalmaki, M. Apio, N. Adhikaiji, R. Galarza, T. Mwanjala, and Y. Zayed


Since their beginnings, human rights frameworks have formed the bedrock of the United Nations system; however, structural forms of inequality continue to pervade and prevent equality for all. In recognition of this, world leaders agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; 17 goals and 169 targets that set out to eradicate poverty, end discrimination and commit to an equitable future. The need has become more urgent in the context of COVID-19, as the UN System and Member States respond to a crisis that has brought systemic inequality to the fore and disproportionately impacted the lives of persons with disabilities and others already marginalised by systems of oppression such as patriarchy, ableism, racism, ageism, colonialism and imperialism.

Intersectionality offers a new way of thinking about these complexities. It is not an ‘add and stir’ approach nor does it “provide definitive answers to social problems”; rather, it reframes our understanding of marginalisation and “creates spaces for reflexive consideration and critical engagement.” Applying an intersectional lens helps connect human rights to the multiple forms of discrimination that people experience. It is essential to achieve equal outcomes for all in global efforts to fulfil the pledge to leave no one behind.

This Resource Guide and Toolkit emerged from an identified need to use an intersectional approach that included people with disabilities in all their diversity in the development, implementation and evaluation of policies, programmes, advocacy and inter-governmental processes. However, the authors and collaborators realised that an effective intersectionality resource needed to go beyond a focus on specific intersecting identities, such as disability and gender, as this would still exclude those who are most marginalised. Consequently, this toolkit is framed around a set of core intersectionality enablers, including diverse knowledges, power relations and reflexivity, in order to address the “multi-level interacting social locations, forces, factors and power structures that shape and influence human life.”

The Resource Guide and Toolkit is the result of an inter-agency joint project between UN Women, UN DESA, UNICEF, UNFPA and OHCHR and supported by the UNPRPD. A Civil Society Advisory Group (ADD International, CBM Global, Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA), HelpAge International, International Disability Alliance, Sightsavers, Water Aid, Women’s Refugee Commission, Women Enabled International) was formed to ensure reflection of diverse views throughout the toolkit development process. An intersectional approach was used to steer toolkit development. In particular, we thank the International Disability Alliance and its Community of Practice members for their support in co-designing of the toolkit. The content herein has been greatly benefited and enhanced by the expertise and perspectives of diverse persons from the disability movement across the globe. Their experience, insights and comments informed the ultimate direction and approach of the toolkit. The toolkit was also informed by among key partners, members of diverse groups, and thematic experts and desk review of existing resources and best practices.

Scope and purpose of the Resource Guide and Toolkit

This Resource Guide and Toolkit offers a starting point for those wishing to deepen their understanding and apply an intersectional approach to their work. It aims to provide conceptual clarity, a practical framework and tools for reducing compounded and intersecting inequalities faced by people experiencing diverse and compounded forms of discrimination. Its purpose is to:

  1. Contribute to an understanding of intersectionality that bridges the gap between theory and practice.

  2. Help practitioners, policymakers, and advocates mobilise efforts to address the 2030 Agenda and its goals by embedding an intersectional mindset as part of their policies, programmes and services.

This Resource Guide and Toolkit is comprised of eight enablers and a framework for action that helps the user to reflect and identify actions that can be taken to address intersectionality.

The Resource Guide and Toolkit:

  • Considers intersectionality holistically and highlights examples of what this looks like for people experiencing diverse forms of intersectional discrimination.

  • Is designed to be integrated within existing work, processes and tools (including Common Country Analyses and UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks).

  • Is flexible and should be adapted to suit the local context; the experiences and expertise of local populations should be the starting point for implementing any of these approaches in specific contexts.

  • Includes useful resources, a selection of practical tools and good practice examples.

As with any resource, this toolkit should be reviewed and updated over time, based on user feedback and as further gaps and priorities emerge.

Who is it for?

The Resource Guide and Toolkit is for practitioners, policy makers, experts, and advocates. The intended user for the project is UN Country Teams (UNCT) and colleagues across the UN system working to support Member States. However, it is applicable to any individual, civil society, government or private sector entity seeking to apply an intersectional lens to their work.

How to use this Resource Guide and Toolkit

Intersectionality is an approach, a mindset; not a mere toolkit. It is a way of thinking, reflecting and working.

Transformative change begins where ‘the individual and system meet’ and intersectionality must be addressed through a process that focuses on self-reflection, relationships and contexts. The effectiveness of an intersectional approach depends on how willing the user is to challenge themselves and interrogate their own attitudes and ways of working and cannot be achieved via checklists or prescriptive processes. With this mindset the user will be able to then apply the enablers and action framework across their existing work processes, whether this is at policy, programmatic or institutional level.