Intersectionality of Gender, Disability and Indigenous Identity

By Sarah Cibart, Canadian Trade Union Delegation

This session took on looking at women's rights at the intersections of many identities and ensuring the UN and other policy makers not only recognize that these voices are important, but actually consider how to put folks who have may layers of experience with marginalization in positions of power and ensure that funding be given to those impacted by intersectionality. 

We heard from differently abled women from all over the world with various experiences between regional activism and the international policy level. A few points that really stuck out for me were: 

  • although there are organizations at regional and national levels for women living with disabilities, there still is not an international organization specifically dedicated to this work and fighting for these rights 
  • out of over 4,000 attendees at UNCW- consider how many are differently abled, yet internationally roughly 1 in 5 women live with a disability and 3 in 5 people with disabilities are women (roughly 600 million women are differently abled worldwide)
  • women with disabilities, specifically non-white, are statically the poorest sector in the world 
  • there is still a desperate need for legislative changes internationally for the empowerment of women with disabilities such as repealing sterilization laws, forced abortions, and illegal incapacitation
  • it was exciting to attend a workshop that offered English, Spanish, American Sign Language and word to text projection. I believe that maximizing language accessibility is always a worthy investment when we are considering making more inclusive and accessible spaces (especially within education)

After this intense session, which reinforced the need to consider identities through an intersectional lens and consider the power and privilege that certain identities are neglected of, I was left wondering: 

  •  is there more human rights groups within unions and at the national level doing as much as they can to help bring diverse voices to positions of power in labour and at the international level?
  • are these human rights groups in ways causing stress and isolation for people who may live with intersectional identities and then do not get to consider their need within the workplace in an intersectional way? Could human rights groups within unions do more to create space for intersectionality? 

I will admit, I was disappointed that economic and labour empowerment was not more discussed in this session, particularly since it was clear the panelists had a lot to give in sharing their knowledge and experiences. I submitted a question specifically around the role of unions in advocating for safer, more equitable workplaces, and furthermore the role of human rights groups within unions, however we simply ran out of time in the session. I hope to continue conversations throughout my time with UNCSW around intersectionality and human rights organizing within labour, and furthermore how these concepts can be implemented for international betterment

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