An Introduction to Intersectional Economics and how it relates to migrant and refugee women

“It’s about creating an economic system that works for all people, rather than works against them by reinforcing current systems of disadvantage”.

As part of WIRE’s Intersectional Wellness video suite produced as part of the Women’s Financial Capabilities Project, Narelle Sullivan and Manasi Wagh of Bread + Roses discuss intersectional economics and how that related to Manasi’s own migrant story. The following blog post has been extracted from that conversation. 

What is Intersectionality 

Intersectionality supports us to understand the interconnected nature of social categorisation such as race, gender and class, and the way that they compound together to create systems of discrimination for individuals and groups.

A great thing about intersectionality is that it acknowledges that we are made up of not one identity but multiple identities, that come about through history, culture and systems of oppression. It can feel like a theoretical and difficult concept, but is in fact a really practical that can help us when we’re working with different people to understand the systems of discrimination that they’re up against, and how those systems work to make some people privileged and others marginalised. 

Intersectionality is often seen as a theoretical tool that is purely deficit based, however it can also be used to analyse the strength within communities and really bring those strengths to the forefront. 

Intersectional Economics 

Intersectional economics is about taking that intersectional lens and looking at how we can restructure our economic activity to eliminate discrimination and disadvantage. In simple terms, it’s about creating an economic system that works for all people, rather than works against them by reinforcing current systems of disadvantage, as is often the case. The beauty of intersectional economics is that it can be applied to policy development, program design and delivery, services and products to ensure economic equality for all. 

An organisation can take many different intersectional lenses to their program development and service delivery such as: 

  • A feminist lens, specifically ensuring that women are doing the project design. 
  • A migrant lens, ensuring that you have a diverse workforce with people of lived experience will ensure your programs are creating a bigger impact. 
  • A social and economic lens, which means meeting people where they’re at, and understanding what their view is of their own economic and social capabilities. 
  • A trauma-informed lens, which can really help organisations get to the heart of the problems that they’re trying to address. 

How intersectional economics impacts migrant and refugee women – Manasi’s experience

In Australia, migrant and refugee women often fall through the cracks in our financial or support systems, especially when they arrive in Australia through their migration journey, but also during the resettlement process or when they are experiencing financial hardships.

There’s also a lack of understanding in Australia and significant stereotyping when it comes to the economic experience of migrant women.

In terms of Manasi’s own experiences migrating from India, she was perceived completely differently by Australians compared to what was expected of her in her visa process.

What not many people realise, is that not all countries have humanitarian status when it comes to migrations, India is one of those nations, so there are only a set criteria of visas that can be applied for. This meant that when Manasi applied for her visa to come to Australia, she had to ensure that she had a certain level of English, that she had a certain level of financial backing, and education level. She realised upon arriving in Australia that she was being stereotyped regularly into a category of a migrant woman from a non-English speaking background, meaning people often made assumptions about her economic status and education.

Intersectionality is about breaking down these stereotypes that are often harmful, and are contradictory to a person’s lived experience and perception of themselves. 

This article was extracted from the Intersectional Financial Wellness video series which was produced as part of the Women’s Financial Capabilities Project led by WIRE in partnership with Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand, First Nations Foundation, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Women with Disabilities Victoria, and Financial Counselling Australia. The Project is supported by the Victorian Government. 

Bread + Roses are a program incubator and consultancy service, dedicated to economic empowerment of women. They work with organisations and government bodies, corporates and not-for-profits to develop impactful and innovative ways to ensure that the financial resilience and economic equality of women is met.


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