Women’s Empowerment in Mongolia

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Mongolia is a central Asian nation of approximately three million people. There are slightly more females than males in Mongolia, which is a demographic trend rarely seen in East Asia. Since ancient times till now, Mongolian women have had a relatively high social status. The status of women’s empowerment in Mongolia can be viewed from the following aspects.

Even before Mongolia ratified various human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Mongolian women had been deeply involved in civic and public life. In 1999, the U.N. Common Country Assessment Indicator Framework ranked Mongolia highly based on gender equality and women’s empowerment among 40 core indicators. Among the factors considered were the gender ratio in school enrollment, the share of women in both paid occupations in services and industry and in parliament.

A unique characteristic of social status of Mongolian women is what could be termed a reverse gender gap, which appears in various areas such as education, employment, economy and family. It is widely seen that many women are better than men in this nation. Mongolian women make up 52.3 percent of officials among all the national agencies, 72 percent of professionals in educational institutions and as high as 80 percent of positions in the national health sector.

Higher education levels, a rapid increase in female-headed households, the drop of stable marriage, family size and fertility rate are social trends in major cities of Mongolia. Despite their independence on social status in terms of economy and finance, rewards from women in Mongolia due to higher education level, could be still lower in the hierarchy of occupations and decision-making.

The share of Mongolian women in parliamentary representation was 23 percent in 1990. This detracts from women’s empowerment in Mongolia by inhibiting women’s political rights and talents of serving as decision makers.

As a critical lever in empowering women and raising their social status, education is often viewed as a mirror reflecting the social status of women. The reverse gender gap applies to the enrollment rate of girls in secondary schools too, a rate which has increased from 80.9 percent in 1998 to above 90 percent in the recent decade.

The economic and family status of women in Mongolia, requires more attention. While women’s share of employment in job markets suggests equality has been achieved, the proportion of Mongolian women in the workforce has been declining since 1989. In addition, domestic violence and sexual harassment towards women remain widespread and serious problems in Mongolia.

Keynote laws and regulations to ensure Mongolian women’s legal rights are as follows. In 1999, a labor law in Mongolia prohibited the discrimination of women in employment, which included a section emphasizing maternity rights. The government also organizes a national committee on gender equality and the issues of women and children. The law on domestic violence was passed through the Mongolian parliament in 2004.

The status of women’s empowerment in Mongolia is relatively high among Asian nations. Influenced by a tradition of hard-working, fearless, determined predecessors, Mongolian women endeavor to change the status of inequality in the long run.

– Xin Gao
Photo: Flickr

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