The UB Post
Activist delves into feminism and equality
B.Batchimeg is a program specialist at Woman For Change NGO, which is an international organization that has operated in Mongolia since 2010. The main focuses of the organization are human rights, gender equality and democratic education.
There are three parts to their operation in Mongolia, which include equality projects, youth involvement and women’s role in politics.
Woman for Change has three sectors. Would you please elaborate on your most recent project in Khovd Province?
Our latest Voice for Change project and it has been quite special due to how we begun to educate women in the countryside on the topics of Gender Equality, Leadership and why it is important under the name Voices for Change. The project overall covers all 21 provinces of Mongolia.
It has already been organized in Khovd and it has been done in other provinces too. Currently, voice for change has taken place in three different zones of Mongolia. The events take place in city centers or the capital of the provinces. The launch in the western zone took place in Khovd and the eastern zone was in Khentii Province.
By working with women of all three zones, what were the attitudes and differences that you observed?
The central zone of Mongolia includes Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan, and Erdenet are all developed cities. This means that the women in these areas are the most informed about gender equality. They have more knowledge compared to woman in the outer zones. The ones in isolated soums are unable to attend any of those events as development projects don’t reach these areas.
One other thing that I noticed was that in the western zones, there were the remains of century old Mongolian traditional mentality when it comes to gender equality.
Why did you start working at a feminist organization?
One of the main reasons why I started working in such an organization is to find an answer to the question: Why?
I grew up in a normal Mongolian family where the father is in charge of everything and the brothers were allowed to do anything they like, yet I was held down because I was a girl. There were set standards or expectation of girls and women. Girls were supposed to stay at home with house chores whereas the boys played outside. I always wondered why such norms were set and whenever I ask about it from others, the answer would always be as if there was nothing wrong with it.
When I began looking for jobs as a human resource manager, I found myself struggling with interview questions such as “As a young woman, do you have children?”, “Do you have children? You might not be able to commit to the company if you get pregnant” or “If you have a small child then you cannot focus on the work”, which made it quite difficult for me to find a job as a young adult.
Four years ago, I read a book called “Reach for the Top” about gender equality and women empowerment, which inspired me to do research on women’s rights in Mongolia and Mongolian NGOs for women.
Eventually, I joined Women for Change NGO as a member and participated in numerous events and projects for two years.
Since 2017, I was given the opportunity to work as a program specialist.
What are the most rewarding and hardest parts about being a
human rights activist?
As of now, I have not come across anything that I deem too difficult and I don't think I will encounter one in the future either. The reason why it is amazing is that I am helping people right now. I can see the effects of my work because I am living in the society that I help improve. The fact that I am working for these people and working for this community encourages me to work even harder.
From a young age, I dreamed of helping kids in Africa and watched many shows that do so. Perhaps because of this, I used to always think that I will be someone who works for others. I like being a human rights activist.
Have people criticized the activities of Women for Change?
As opposed to our NGO, people often criticize the idea of feminism thinking that it is just about women. Rather, it is for the issues of both men and women to find an equilibrium that benefits both genders and does not falter one’s ability or rights.
However, many perceive feminism as a movement that only focuses on problems of women because they usually fall victim to inequality.
In order for us to coexist peacefully in society, it is essential for men and women to have equal ideals and rights.
What are some examples of issues you have faced because you are a woman?
When it comes to feminism, people have the idea that feminists are a bunch of out of control women burning their underwear for a revolution on a basis of false ideologies, but it is not.
On the contrary, they are women who wish to have their voices be heard not only for themselves but for other women who may experience the same problems. The reasoning behind Voices for Change is that in order to create an impact, you don’t have to be a feminist, or a successful female entrepreneur or politician.
Those who can sing can sing for feminism and those who play music can play for feminism. There are many fields of work out there. These people can have their voices be heard through the actions of their work.
Many cultures are male dominated. When it comes to the line between modern globalism and culture, where does feminism stand?
There are sexist sayings too, such as “A woman’s hair is long and mind is short”.
Yet, there is no actual study that suggests this. When asked why people say that this is the way it is, their explanation is that it always was like this. Perhaps if you ask one question and the answer ends with “that is the way it is”, then maybe you need to dig deeper and evaluate it.
Of course, culture is a very significant part of our lives, but at times, we need to draw the line and think critically. If culture limits your free thought and you thinking outside the box, then perhaps it is time that we start being critical of culture.
I will leave the last question to you. What do you want to say as a human rights activist to our readers at The UB Post?
In order to be an activist, you don’t have to be an expert or a woman for that matter. Have your voice be heard whenever you can at whatever you are doing. If you do so, then you really are the voice for change.
...In order for us to coexist peacefully in society, it is essential for men and women to have equal ideals and rights...