Women and girls continue to suffer gender-based discrimination and violence in every corner of the world and work fields despite global efforts to provide equal opportunities for both women and men, as well as to integrate gender equality into policies and practices.
Mongolia is no exception. Although improvements have been noted in gender equality in Mongolia, gender-based issues are still a pressing issue in society, where patriarchy is dominant and men hold more power than women. To address this issue, the Social Democracy-Mongolian Women’s Association (SDMWA) of the Mongolian People’s Party is planning to host the Socialist International Women’s Regional Meeting for the first time in Ulaanbaatar from April 22 to 23.
The general theme of the meeting will be “Woman and Asia – Promoting Gender Equality” and will mainly focus on promoting gender equality, combating all forms of discrimination against women, empowering women and girls in all fields, and initiating programs to address gender-based discrimination.
Member of the organizing body, the SDMWA, and representative of the Bayangol District Council L.Amgalan spoke about the upcoming Socialist International Women’s Regional Meeting in the interview below. She’s also the executive director of Emegteichuud Khugjliin Temuulel San (Women’s Development and Aspiration Fund) NGO.
Mongolia will organize its first-ever Socialist International Women’s Regional Meeting soon. Can you tell us how the SDMWA was able to get the approval to organize this meeting?
This was not achieved by the SDMWA alone. Efforts of every Mongolian woman should be credited in attaining the privilege to host the Socialist International Women’s Regional Meeting. Not every nation is able to host a meeting on a regional scale.
The SDMWA is the leading association for promoting gender equality in Mongolia. The association’s reputation and position among Asian countries can be seen from this achievement.
The Socialist International Women was established by merging positive sides of democracy and socialism after assessing international practices.
The regional meeting will take place before the 11th ASEM Summit of Heads of State and Government. Representatives from how many countries will attend the event? What do you think will be achieved through the meeting?
Over 30 representatives from more than 10 countries have been registered to date, including former and current MPs. The meeting is anticipated by many women across the globe, and this time, Asian female representatives will seek solutions for gender-based concerns, share experiences and practices, and our association will be able to promote its operations.
Mongolia had a socialist society for 70 years in the past, but some Asian countries that will take part in the upcoming meeting haven’t experienced socialism before. These countries have been running under democratic principles and now, they’re seeking a new development path due to large gaps between the rich and poor in these countries. The Socialist International Women was established by merging positive sides of democracy and socialism after assessing international practices. This organization wants to exchange experience with the SDMWA because Mongolia has experienced both democracy and socialism. They believe that Mongolia is relatively well-experienced and is developing rapidly compared to other Asian countries.
How will the upcoming meeting promote Mongolia internationally?
It can be said that Mongolia has actively raised gender-based issues and made progress quite fast compared to some Asian countries. During Mongolia’s 20 years of democracy, women’s election rights were legalized and gender quotas, specifying that 30 percent of government and Parliament seats must be occupied by women, were approved. This is a huge improvement. Some nations had to fight for 50 to 100 years to achieve this.
Mongolia has experienced both socialism and democracy before. Now, it’s advancing forward with the political ideology that advocates the combination of democracy and socialism.
The Democratic Party promised to help women exercise their rights and live a good life. It’s time to evaluate what the Democratic Party is saying, its implementation of policy, and how it’s fulfilling its promises.
Mongolian women are leading successful careers in every field. You’re also an executive. Do you think that the Mongolian state policy is supportive of female entrepreneurs?
Mongolia has overcome many difficult obstacles and challenges to get this far. We’re facing another difficulty right now. Mongolia is suffering from huge debts, the economy isn’t in a good shape, and the public is starting to starve. A nation’s economy is a big topic, but it can be divided into smaller parts. The main foundation of Mongolia’s economic development is the public. Supporting family businesses is an important state policy, but so far, the state is doing nothing for this. Good living standards of families directly impact the nation’s development in a positive way.
For example, Vietnamese organizations allow women to do work-at-home jobs after work to increase their household income. This is a wonderful direct support to working women by the Vietnamese government. Mongolia should introduce this type of system. Living standards of many families will improve if they are provided with long-term loans with low interest rates for purchasing equipment used for work-at-home jobs. Because Mongolia doesn’t have a state policy that supports small vendor businesses, women are renting small rooms or basements, and sometimes, they even work on the street. We need to start discussing family economy and provide family support.
How can the government improve the livelihoods of women? Aren’t better government policies, support and decision earnestly needed?
We’ve reached the time to start discussing whether women are able to live properly with good living conditions. The Democratic Party promised to help women exercise their rights and live a good life. It’s time to evaluate what the Democratic Party is saying, its implementation of policy, and how it’s fulfilling its promises. It’s true that we’re living like a donkey or some kind of animal. When women leave their house in the morning, they transform into a transporter, waiter, vendor, customer, driver, chef, organizer and manager, but when they return home at night, they become a teacher, nurse, babysitter, mother and etc. In other words, most Mongolian women have to manage all of this. They usually forget themselves because they’re preoccupied with thoughts of their home and job.
I’m sure that everyone notices that the streets are full of female vendors. This is the manifestation of the errors in the Mongolian state policy. It’s a fact that vendors are selling things from the trunks of vehicles because they are no longer able to afford to rent booths and counters. Wherever you go, there are empty booths and counters. It’s time for the state to develop a sustainable policy for resolving these urgent issues. We should fix the state error before it becomes something bigger. We’ll never be able to improve the Mongolian economy and living standards if we sit around and wait for someone to do it for us.
You represent the Bayangol District Council. What kind of complaints and feedback do you mostly receive from voters and the public?
A single mother of three came to me because she ran out of options for raising her children. I visited her home just recently and found only a half a kg of flour in her cupboard. She’s also one of the people selling things on the street. This is reality and I think it’s time for us and the state to help resolve this type of issues women are facing and make the nation more orderly.
People have jobs and regular salaries in countries with a stable economy. The price of products are also stable and their currency exchange rate doesn’t fluctuate all the time. But in Mongolia, one USD is exchanged for 2,000 MNT. Prices of common goods are continuing to rise. At this rate, people’s purchasing power will plunge and consumption will become limited.
The inflation rate increased by 1.7 percent from December 2015 to March 2016. In relation to the decrease in purchasing power, concerns about food quality and consumption of families are arising. Some businesses are laying off employees and aren’t able to provide wages on time due to low sales. Everyone has taken out some kind of loan from the bank. Their credit has declined, forming a loan chain. Even if banks try to issue loans to people, most of them don’t meet the requirements.
Girls, women and mothers who attend our NGO’s workshops share their worries and concerns with me and our staff. These people inform me of the current situation and daily concerns of the public. Media outlets report about degrading living standards of the public based on facts and proof. I met with entrepreneurs a few days ago. They told me that they were able to profit up until 2012, but now, they have no capital.
I’d like to underline that out of a total of the 96,500 unemployed people in Mongolia at the end of 2015, 52.8 percent were women. We should all work together to save our society. We’ve observed enough. It’s time to change and reform everything.
What should be done to improve the current situation?
Cheap products with bad quality are imported with no tax charged, but Mongolian domestically produced products are exported with high taxes. In particular, our two neighbors, China and Russia, impose high taxes. Due to this, many businesses are closing down.
I’d like to underline that out of a total of the 96,500 unemployed people in Mongolia at the end of 2015, 52.8 percent were women. We should all work together to save our society. We’ve observed enough. It’s time to change and reform everything. A group of people shouldn’t keep becoming richer while the majority is in poverty. We should reduce wasteful spending and stop competing with one another. Women must fight for this. Women treat issues sincerely, justly, and give good advice. Unless we take action now, it’ll be too late by the time our children take over state affairs.
Soon, the Mongolian People’s Party will hold its regular meeting and discuss its action plan. How will this year’s election platform be different from previous years’?
Previous platforms of political parties were either full of slogans or promises. I proposed to make this year’s election platform of our party more scientific, with good quality policies consistent to the livelihood and interests of the public. I hope that it reaches its target – the public – and improves the nation within a short period of time. It’s necessary to develop an economic platform that defines ways to save the stagnant economy within a short time.