Intersectionality: from Theory to Practice

You’ve probably heard the word ‘intersectionality’. You’ve maybe heard people call themselves ‘an intersectional feminist’. In a lot of feminist media, culture and conversation, intersectionality has become a buzzword. But what does it actually mean, and how does it relate to gender equality?

To understand more, we spoke to Mpho Elizabeth Mpofu. Mpho is a development practitioner and philanthropist from Zimbabwe. She’s also the founder of Voice of Africa. Here’s what she had to say.


“It’s one of those words that we keep bringing up, but then the question is, is it really happening on the ground?”

An important thing to know about intersectionality is that the legacy of the whole concept is rooted within black feminst movements. It can be traced back to at least 1852, and the idea was explored by women of colour throughout succeeding decades. In 1989, the word intersectionality was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw.

As Crenshaw explains it, intersectionality is a way of looking at the world. It draws our attention to the ways points of difference (such as gender, race, class, sexuality, ability) create overlapping and compounding inequalities. It’s like a lens that allows us to see that the many forms and sources of inequality are interwoven. Intersectionality is something you do, not something you are, and everyone shares the responsibility of taking the theory and using it in practice. If you’d like to learn more, Kimberle Crenshaw has a great podcast – Intersectionality Matters.

Girls’ Globe attended the Women in Dev Conference in March 2020. You can watch highlights from the event or join the conversation online. If you’d like to share your perspective, personal experience or work on intersectionality, you can amplify your voice with Girls’ Globe.

Yemen, Feminism & Power with Lina Abirafeh

“The challenge with Yemen is this: it is a forgotten emergency.”

Lina Abirafeh is the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women. She is an expert in gender issues in emergencies, with 20 years experience working in conflict, post-conflict and natural disaster settings around the world. She’s also an author, researcher, and influential voice in the global gender policy sphere. You can hear more about Lina’s work in her Ted Talk.

At the Women Deliver 2019 Conference, Girls’ Globe’s Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp had the opportunity to sit down with Lina. She shares her expertise on the situation facing women and girls in Yemen today, explaining that they remain disproportionately vulnerable, despite all of the rhetoric around preventing violence and protecting women.

“We literally don’t put our money where our mouth is, and I think Yemen has been the most stark example of that.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X1p4uIoC1I&feature=youtu.be


Ashley asks Lina to explain how senior leaders like herself can ‘pass the power’ to the next generation of activists. Her answer? They already have it.

“I see that power already, what I do is hold up the mirror and show them the power they have. I think they don’t know what they’re capable of, they don’t see it.”

Lina’s voice is strong, clear and inspirational. Her final words are an important reminder to all those who feel passionately human rights and gender equality:

“Everyone has a voice, but not everyone has that microphone.”

In Conversation with Tasneem Kakal

Tasneem Kakal is an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Born and raised in Mumbai, she spent 5 years taking a daily train to and from university. In this interview with Girls’ Globe, Tasneem tells us what the experience taught her about navigating public space as a young woman.

“I would walk up the stairs and go to my platform in this huge crowd of people. And I realized I was doing something that I didn’t know I was doing…”

We all have the right to move through the world without fear. Public space should be accessible to all, regardless of gender. By raising her voice and bringing attention to the everyday nature of inequality, Tasneem stands in solidarity with other women and girls.

“I had to push the boundaries, little by little.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org to support women’s advocacy messages.

If you liked this post, we think you’ll love our interviews with Kinga, Winfred, Scarlett and Natasha, too! 

In Conversation with Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma

Allow us to introduce you to Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma! Natasha is a Zambian medical doctor and the founder of Copper Rose Zambia – an organization working to advance adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

We sat down with Natasha to talk about starting her own organization, the taboo around menstruation and abortion, and how she takes care of her own wellbeing in her work. 

“I noticed a menstrual hygiene problem in my school. Not because the girls couldn’t afford the products, but most people didn’t know what was going on with their bodies.”

It can be incredibly challenging to work on issues considered to be taboo, sensitive or ‘controversial’, but Natasha clearly isn’t going to let societal norms in Zambia – or anywhere else in the world – stand in her way. 

“I believe that women, if empowered, can change the narrative of the African continent.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org in support of women’s advocacy messages.

In Conversation With Winfred Ongom

Winfred Ongom is a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate working with the White Ribbon Alliance in Uganda. She tells us about the challenges she faces as a young woman speaking up on issues many would rather keep quiet about – including convincing her mother that her brothers should learn about condoms!

“It took her some time – we still have those fights – but at least there is some progress and she understands the need for them to protect themselves.”

By improving laws, staying open-minded and focusing on human rights-based approaches, Winfred is hopeful that future generations won’t face the stigma, mis-information and discrimination holding young people back today.

“Maybe the children I’ll have will have a better life, where their sexuality is open and they’re free to talk about it.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org in support of women’s advocacy messages.

In Conversation With Kinga Wisniewska

Kinga Wisniewska is a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate from Poland. In this conversation with Girls’ Globe, Kinga talks about the misconceptions surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights in her home country, and the challenges she faces as an advocate in today’s political climate. 

“The environment is getting more and more conservative in Poland, so I’m struggling with sending my message without being attacked.”

We couldn’t agree more with Kinga when she says that storytelling has the power to bring out the best part of people – their empathy. 

“When you become empathetic you connect, you rethink, maybe you change your opinion.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org in support of women’s advocacy messages.