Small local organisations in Mongolia bring hope in difficult times
"How many layers of clothing are you wearing? One? No, that's not enough. You should wear your ski pants over your jeans, and change your shoes for snowboots." And there you are, on day 1 of your trip to Mongolia. I had already heard that Mongolia is very cold at the end of November, and with -22 degrees that seemed to be all true.
At Both ENDS I work on the 'Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action' (GAGGA) program, which aims to create synergy between environmental and women's movements. In this context I visited our partners OT Watch (a national environmental NGO) and MONES (a national women's fund) and spoke with various grassroots women's organisations.
Mongolia in short
The country has a population of around three million, half of which resides in the capital Ulaanbaatar. The other half is spread out through the country and mostly nomadic. To compare Mongolia to the Netherlands: the latter fits about 37 times in the former; the vastness of the country is incredible. In the South, one finds the Gobi desert, while the North and West are cold and mountainous. Large parts of the country is steppe. The northern part has most lakes and rivers, you will only find a few in the South. The soil contains large amounts of minerals and therefore mining, next to agriculture, is an important source of income.
A number of rivers have dried up due to climate change. As mining requires large amounts of water each day, rivers further away are being drained or diverted (and polluted). A complicating factor is that several parliamentarians or their family members have shares in mining companies, as a result of which the parliament may not always act decisively. Corruption is not uncommon. West of Ulaanbaatar there are three large power plants, contributing to the large amounts of smog. But so is the Ger district, which is not connected to the central energy grid. Here, people burn coal inside their houses to keep warm, which causes many health problems. People from the NGO 'Moms and Dads against Smog' told me that the amount of smog is five times as large as in Beijing.
Impact on women
Smog affects everyone living in it, but women are hit harder by it than men. The winter season lasts six long months, so heating (and therefore burning coal) is required for six months. During this period the smog is worse and the number of stillbirths and miscarriages is three times higher than in summer. In addition, it is usually the women who take leave of absence or cannot work at all, to care for sick children or the elderly: smog-related diseases such as pneumonia are not unusual.
Together with OT Watch I visited Baganuur, a small city next to a coalmine, and we spoke to a few members of the local women's alliance. They told us about the possible expansion of the mine and the construction of a power plant next to it. They are – and with good reason - afraid that the large influx of (male) labor migrants might cause all kinds of violations of women's rights. Unfortunately, previous examples have shown that there is a chance of an increase in (sexual) violence against women and prostitution. The women also worry about the lack of information about these projects that can have a major impact on their lives.
Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action
Through GAGGA we support the Mongolian women's Fund MONES, a 'small grants fund' which provides small amounts of money to local grassroots-organisations that stand up for women's rights and environmental justice. I was very impressed with the large positive impact small grants can provide to local people. For example, the 'Mongolian Women's Employment Support Federation' focuses on people living on / around one of the garbage dumps of Ulaanbaatar. These people search for food and products that can be returned / recycled. Basic needs such as water, electricity, heating are lacking, there is little access to information and many of the people living there are undocumented. Some get traumatised by what they find: it happens that stillborn fetus are put in a rubbish bag and end up on the garbage dump. Mongolian Women's Employment Support Federation informs these people about their rights, helps them with training and speaks with companies involved, in hopes that some people can be employed by them.
Small Grants, Big Impacts
When I spoke to employees of 'Moms and Dads against Smog', another small local organisation, I realised how much organisations like these get done with very few resources. Especially, considering that this organisation was only established in January 2017, after a concerned mom sent out a Facebook-message about the smog in Ulaanbaatar. This message (with a little help from MONES) led to a protest of about 2000 people on the largest square of Ulaanbaatar, when it was minus 20 degrees Celsius. The protest was widely picked up by national media and the NGO was allowed to speak during a meeting on air pollution with, among others, the prime minister and the minister of environment. The organisation is now trying to persuade the government to invest more in health care and to properly implement and monitor the national air pollution program.
Although I sometimes heard heartbreaking stories, these kind of positive stories gave me new courage and inspiration. MONES will continue to work on joint projects between women and environmental groups in 2018, knowledge and capacity building and Both ENDS will of course continue to support this in all possible ways.
For more information
Read more about this subject
GAGGA rallies the collective power of the women's rights and environmental justice movements to realize a world where women can and do access their rights to water, food security, and a clean, healthy and safe environment.
External link / 31 May 2018
It was minus 20 degrees Celsius when 2.000 women gathered at the main square of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to voice their distress about the terrible smog in the city caused by three large power plants. Soon after, the women were invited to speak about the problem of air pollution with the minister of environment.
News / 3 June 2020
Last Friday, 29 May, it was announced that both the Fair, Green and Global Alliance (FGG) and the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) have been selected as two of the 20 potential strategic partnerships of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the 2021-2025 period. Both ENDS is pleased that the Dutch government is seriously considering extending its support to these networks, as they show that cooperation on the basis of equality between grassroots organisations and NGOs throughout the world can continue to bring about change in the position of women, in respect for human rights and in making trade chains and financing systems sustainable.
News / 23 March 2020
In many places in Latin America, access to clean water is under great pressure from overuse and pollution, often caused by large-scale agriculture or mining. This has significant impact, especially on women. In March, with International Women's Day on March 8 and World Water Day on March 22, they make themselves heard and claim their right to water.
News / 8 March 2018
Women around the globe are at the forefront of addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, designing, implementing, and scaling up their own solutions. Socially defined gender roles often position women and girls as stewards of the physical, economic, and cultural well-being of their communities.
News / 28 September 2018
We congratulate Joan Carling, member of the permanent commission on indigenous peoples of the UN, for having received the Lifetime Achievement Award as 'Champion of the Earth' by the UN Environment! This is the UN's highest environmental honor, given to six of the world's most outstanding environmental change makers once a year.
Publication / 8 March 2018
Video / 12 September 2018
Latin American partner organizations of GAGGA launched the campaign "We, women, are water" in March 2018. This video was launched as part of this campaign, and emphasizes the role of women water defenders.
Video / 12 September 2018
The Latin American partner organizations of GAGGA launched the campaign "We, women, are water" in March 2018. This video was launched as part of this campaign, and emphasizes the importance of recognizing water as a common good.
Video / 12 September 2018
Latin American partner organizations of GAGGA launched the campaign "We, women, are water" in March 2018. This video was launched as part of this campaign, and emphasizes the role of women in the sustainable management of water in Latin America.
Publication / 10 December 2018
Event / 14 April 2018, 11:30
On the 14th of April, Both ENDS wil host a workshop called 'Small Grants, Big Impacts' on the annual Africa day in Amsterdam. The workshop aims to demonstrate that so called 'small grants funds' effectively deliver (devopment and climate) money where it matters, to people that need it the most. Large development banks, funds, donors and governments could use small grants funds as alternative financing mechanisms to make sure their money benefits people and their environment now and it the far future.
Blog / 7 December 2017By Tamara Mohr
At the end of November EFLAC, the most important gathering of feminists from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, took place in a park just outside Montevideo, Uruguay. Within Both ENDS, I coordinate the GAGGA programme, in which we promote cooperation between the environmental and women's movements. Our partners Mama Cash and FCAM persuaded me that this meeting was the perfect opportunity to find out whether and, if so, in which way women are interested in the environment. They had prepared me for a very intensive meeting, at which the whole spectrum of emotions would be aroused and expressed. I had no idea what to expect and set off with a completely open mind. And so it came that I spent four days among more than 2,000 women from across the continent.
External link / 19 June 2020
After many years of resistance, in 2019 residents of Bargny, Senegal welcomed the shutdown of a coal plant in their community, as local fisherwomen retain access to their fish drying grounds. The case shows how complaint mechanisms can be a powerful tool to enforce change.
Event / 7 March 2018, 15:00 - 16:30
Join us for the third session of this five-part series on women's rights and climate finance, aimed at building knowledge and power to ensure finance flows benefit local women's groups, respond to community needs and respect human rights.
External link / 29 May 2019
Mining often has a huge and devastating impact on the environment, including water, air and forests. It can profoundly affect nearby communities, not only by harming local ecosystems, but also by exacerbating or provoking societal tension. In many places across the globe, women are leading resistance to mining and the 'extractivist' model.
Event / 8 June 2018, 16:00 - 18:00
The International Institute of Social Studies, Both ENDS, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands and Mama Cash invite you for presentations by Joan Carling, indigenous leader and women's rights activist from the Philippines and member of the permanent commission on indigenous peoples of the UN, and Jan van de Venis, Human Rights Lawyer at JustLaw, about the experiences of indigenous leaders in the Philippines, in a world of increasing oppression and human right violations against environmental activists.
External link / 19 June 2020
In 2019, Karambot Women's Agriculture Group (Nepal) convinced their municipality to fund its proposed irrigation plan, after they followed a planning and budgeting training.
Blog / 8 March 2019By Tamara Mohr
Together with five women from the Platform Suace Pyvyvõhára, I travel to Mingã Pora in the east of Paraguay. Around 45 families from the indigenous Tekohá Suace community settled here in 2016. In Guaraní, Tekohá means 'the place where we are what we are'. They reside in tents - self-made out of waste materials - on a small strip of land with a soy field on one side and a nature reserve owned by the Itaipu company on the other.
News / 7 October 2018
We are very proud that our director Daniëlle Hirsch has been included again in the ‘Sustainable 100’ (an annual ranking list published by Dutch newspaper Trouw), and has gone up more than 40 spots compared to last year! Danielle was included in the list because of the many things she does with her organisation as a whole, but she got the higher ranking for the way she combines her criticism of the destructive role of the Netherlands as a trading nation and large cause of CO2 emissions in the world (often supported by the Dutch government), with a constructive attitude when it comes to finding alternatives and solutions.