Introduction to GBA Plus

Moving beyond sex and gender

Now that you have a foundational understanding of intersectionality, you may be wondering how these ideas can be applied to your work.GBA Plus is an intersectional approach and isn’t an extra step, or extra work. Instead,GBA Plus is an analytical tool that can help you reflect on peoples’ multiple factors, and how that may impact their experiences with government initiatives.

By applying an intersectional approach through GBA Plus we will:

  • Be aware of our own intersecting factors, and advantages and disadvantages
    • What are your assumptions and unconscious biases? Where have you learned them (e.g. family values, community, education)?
  • Break down stereotypes and reveal the diversity and multiplicity of factors within different groups
  • Understand that each person’s identity is composed of multiple factors that intersect and impact their lives and experiences
  • Identify the environmental factors (e.g. social and systemic) that impact an individual based on their intersecting factors
  • Distinguish gender issues from women’s issues
  • Consider how multiple factors may limit peoples’ access to programs and services
  • Acknowledge that not all individuals identify with binary gender categories of male/man and female/woman, nor do all individuals identify with their birth-assigned sex

The department for Women and Gender Equality Canada has developed a job-aid to help you begin to include intersectional considerations in GBA Plus.

Intersectionality Job Aid : A Guide to Applying an Intersectional Lens/Mindset to your Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus)

Why use this tool: The Intersectionality Job Aid complements a series of tools and will help you ensure that you apply an intersectional lens/mindset as you undertake a GBA Plus for more responsive government and better service provision. An intersectional approachFootnote 1 to GBA Plus will help you consider the interests and needs of people in all their diversity and ensure greater inclusivity and larger reach of government initiatives. Despite its name, GBA Plus is not a gender first analytical exerciseFootnote 2, its focus is on the intersecting processes, by which power and inequity are produced and reproduced. These systemic and structural inequalities can be better understood and countered with an intersectional approach to GBA Plus ensuring that equality is advanced in all government actions and that inequalities are not reinforced.

Before you get started: Other tools are also available to help take a rigorous and intersectional approach to your analysis. To access these resources, you can visit the Department for Women and Gender Equality’s (WAGE) website. Federal public servants can also access the latest tools through Gcpedia.

Tips for undertaking an intersectional Gender-based Analysis Plus (“Unpacking the Plus”)

In undertaking each step of Gender-based Analysis Plus (i.e., identifying the issue, people and their needs, differences, and inequalities and in developing options, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating results), the principles of intersectionality should be considered. Applying these principles helps ensure that the needs and experiences of different groups of people are reflected, resulting in more effective and responsive government initiatives.

An intersectional approach to GBA Plus requires:

  • Being reflexive and understanding that your own positions, organizational culture, etc., creates potential for bias

    Suggested questions/actions

    Reflexivity is the continuous process of self-reflection that people engage in to generate awareness about their actions, feelings, and perceptions.

    Reflexivity leads to greater self-awareness about the way we act, feel, and perceive things. The practice of reflexivity is useful at all stages of GBA Plus. The way we live, conduct analysis, and find meaning is shaped by our understanding of the world around us.

    As public servants, our understanding of others is limited by unnoticed frames of reference.  Skillful reflexivity requires practice since we are in many ways foreign to ourselves. 

    Intersectionality in Practice

    • Undertaking GBA Plus as a group can be useful to engage in reflexive inquiry as it facilitates the process of challenging assumptions by bringing different perspectives into the process.
    • Seek out people with opinions, backgrounds, or points of reference that are different from your own.
    • Consider different opportunities throughout the steps of your GBA Plus to make observations and re-examine your findings. For example, it can be useful to reflect on:
    • As you define the issue (GBA Plus Step 1) think about your response in the larger contexts.
    • In developing options (GBA Plus Step 4) consider your approach within other “camps” and think about alternate choices and paths.
    • Throughout the GBA Plus process, think of your initiative as a whole and its component parts, among larger conversations.
    • As you reflect on the results of each step of your analysis, include room to consider your own personal journey as you undertake your GBA. You may find it useful to ask yourself:
      • What led me to that perception?
      • How do I know that?
      • Is it possible that my assumptions have prevented me from engaging with people, asking questions and understanding answers that are outside my own experience or beyond my understanding?
      • Why did I conclude that?
    • Including portions of these reflections as part of your GBA Plus analysis (e.g., as assumptions) can be effective in ensuring your analysis provides meaningful evidence for decision-makers as they too will be driven to reflect on their own positions.
    • At the decision points, it then becomes easier to reflect on the assumptions that have been made and the trade offs and choices that are required.
  • Considering intersections of marginalisation/discrimination and thinking differently about equality, power, and identity

    Suggested questions/actions

    Focusing on issues and barriers faced by various individuals or groups allows us to examine how specific identities affect people in different ways. This focus also helps us to understand which elements contribute most to discrimination.

    However, the “Plus” in GBA Plus is not only to emphasize the need to analyze differential impacts but also an explicit way to acknowledge the impact of how factors intersect and impact a person’s experiences of discrimination and oppression. In this way GBA Plus is more inclusive and effective in dismantling systemic forms of social oppression and power relations that are often at the root of inequalities.

    Power is a central concept in GBA Plus. The focus is not just on domination or marginalization, but on the intersecting processes, by which power and inequity are produced and reproduced.

    Oppression is more than the prejudicial thoughts and actions of individuals; it is about institutionalized power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time. Systems of oppression run through our language, shape the way we act and do things in our culture, and are built around what are understood to be “norms” in our societies. A norm signifies what is “normal,” acceptable, and sometimes even valued in a society.

    Intersectionality in Practice

    • Remember as you undertake your GBA Plus, you too are constructing categories of difference. Be mindful that this can undermine the empowerment of those who you characterize as vulnerable.
    • Think about people as innately powerful and resilient but marginalized by their context.
    • Look for ways to achieve positive goals like building resilience and empowerment?
    • Throughout your GBA Plus:
    • Acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist.
    • Recognize that we all have biases and misinformation about our own identity/social group and about members of other groups.
    • Keep an open mind about what identity or other factors are most relevant – the GBA Plus process is one of investigation and discovery. Prepare to be proven wrong.
    • Make issues of systems of discrimination and oppression, (that is, heterosexism, colonialism, sexism, classism, and racism) part of your analysis.
    • You can think through issues of power by asking yourself:
    • who does what (division of labour)?
    • who has what (access to resources)
    • who decides (rules and decision making)?
  • Partnership approaches and harnessing the power of participation and cross-community collaboration

    Suggested questions/actions

    An intersectional GBA Plus is about the visibility and inclusion of various individuals and groups. By focussing on systemic discrimination there are opportunities to identify common barriers, build bridges between groups, create coalitions and act together on issues of common interest.

    Partnerships can also help bridge relationships across differences by facilitating access to specific knowledge. It can also help guide consultation and broker relationships between interested groups.

    Strive to collaborate with organizations and people from different communities, issue areas, and sectors for more holistic approaches that promote transformative change.

    Taking an intersectional GBA Plus from theory to practice requires meaningful participation.  People with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences are the authorities/experts and listening to their insights on barriers will not only inform your GBA Plus but contribute to a collective sense of belonging to their society.

    An inclusive practice should lead to vulnerable and marginalized people having greater voice and agency over the decisions that affect their everyday lives as well as their resilience.

    Intersectionality in Practice

    • Invite diverse groups to participate in advisory committees or working groups to fill knowledge gaps, inform outreach.
    • Consider who is at the table and more importantly who is not. Ensure you have the involvement of key partners – the ones who can help ensure inclusive engagement with an identified population.
    • Practice the "led by and for" principle by providing venues for partners and diverse people to inform and influence your initiative.
    • Incorporate the input of others throughout the GBA Plus process in the decision-making process.
    • When timelines are tight, consider whether other federal government organizations have knowledge, networks, relationships, etc., that can be leveraged to help inform your analysis.
  • Emphasizing action-oriented approaches to advance equality, empowerment, and collective action to address structural inequalities

    Suggested questions/actions

    Embedding intersectional principles as part of GBA Plus is about striving to make change by producing knowledge that promotes action on the variety of factors that affect people’s access to opportunities.

    Progress on advancing equality and fairness for all people requires concrete actions during every step of the GBA Plus process. Changing systems that privilege some, while oppressing others requires that all public servants engage in everyday actions that advance equity and fairness for all people, particularly those at risk for the most marginalization based on their identities.

    Advancing equality is both a critical component of the GBA Plus process as well as its primary goal. GBA Plus should be seen as a means to an end and not as end in and of itself. It is about leveraging all government actions to advance equality objectives and reduce disparities between individuals and groups.

    Intersectionality in Practice

    Putting this into practice is about building individual and organizational capacity to take action. This includes enabling federal partners and a broad range of players in different sectors of society to act. Doing this requires:

    • Ensuring there is awareness and understanding of the "end game" (i.e., advancing fairness and equality and reducing inequalities) so that equality objectives are "baked" into the initiative. The measure by which success in advancing equality will be measured should be articulated as part of Step 1 of your GBA Plus where issues are being identified.
    • Growing capabilities and ensuring broad access to tools and resources so that diverse players can leverage opportunities in their sphere of activity to effect change.
    • Tracking and reporting back on the impact of GBA Plus in progressing towards organizational and whole-of-government priorities.
    • Enabling collective action also requires providing space for dialogue and addressing resistance or divergent thinking. Consideration of different perspectives is integral to an intersectional GBA Plus.
  • Gathering an equalities evidence base

    Suggested questions/actions

    Equality evidence refers to data and other information that allows for a description of equality and inequality and can be quantitative or qualitative.

    Sources of evidence include academic or grey literature and formal or informal data collection methods. It can also include focus groups and interviews with target audiences, program participants and other partners or potential partners.

    Equality data gives a more accurate picture of reality. Accurate and comprehensive data is the basis for identifying and solving problems, supporting the development of initiatives based on facts - not intuition.

    • Accurate data collection and rigorous analysis provides powerful insights into problems and guides the creation of solutions to address discrimination and inequalities.
    • Collecting data and information is not done for the sole purpose of 'knowing' - it is also about 'knowing why'. Reviewing the evidence gathered can provide direction on exploring why there are inequalities.

    While the power of intersectional evidence is widely recognized, the lack of disaggregated data continues to be raised as a barrier to rigorous and intersectional GBA Plus. Documenting data gaps and taking action to fill gaps is critical to continued progress.

    Intersectionality in Practice

    It is not necessary for everyone to have advanced data analysis skills. It is, however, important to know where to turn to access capacity to produce, interpret, and use data. Consider the following:

    • Throughout the GBA Plus process, think about what indicators reveal equality/inequality in the issue area?
    • Determine the types of disaggregatedFootnote 3 data that are available and identify information and data gaps.
    • Note evidence gaps and how you might fill them with literature review by commissioning research, etc.
    • As you develop your options (GBA Plus Step 4), include information on how the approach can help generate new evidence (e.g., through administrative data).
    • In Step 5 of your GBA Plus as you are implementing, monitoring and evaluating your initiative, ensure that the data collection guidelines, forms, processes and assessment are designed to collect and monitor data that is disaggregated by identify factors and personal characteristics
    • Engage with relevant players in your organization and advocate for disaggregated data.