His Excellency Bekhbat Khasbazar, Mongolia’s ambassador to the United States, recently spoke about how Mongolia was meeting its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the key role women play in Mongolian society.
There are eight MDG goals: eradicate extreme poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and create a global partnership for development. To these eight, the Ambassador said with a broad smile, Mongolia has added an additional goal of good governance because “we love to impress others.”
A recent United Nations review of Mongolia’s MDG progress showed that 66 percent of its commitments are on track. In some areas, Mongolia performs extremely well – which many people may be surprised to learn. For example, Mongolia surpasses its MDG goals in primary education, gender equality and combating major diseases. Soon after signing its MDG pledge, the Ambassador said Mongolia succeeded in hitting its target of getting a high percentage of girls into primary and secondary education. It also managed to boost the number of children covered by essential immunizations, cut infant mortality and under-five mortality rates.
Where Mongolia is not advancing as quickly as hoped and where the progress is slow or uneven, the Ambassador said, is in poverty reduction, empowering women and environmental sustainability.
Speaking about gender equality, Ambassador Bekhbat said women have always played a strong role in traditional Mongolian society. He said that Mongolia has “clearly made progress” in achieving greater equality for women in education and in the workforce, in reducing mortality rates and improving health care. “In our schools, at all levels, we have more girls than boys. Women now constitute 63 percent of our workforce. And women have been the leading voices of our civil society,” he said.
Nonetheless, gender inequality, he said, remains a “fact of life” in Mongolia. More women are employed in lower-paying jobs than men and their access to productive assets such as land and loans “clearly needs to be expanded.” Ambassador Bekhbat said that the number of women in top managerial positions in the economy is “negligible and much is needed to be done” to politically empower women. Citing a key statistic, he said Mongolia’s parliament has just three women lawmakers out of a total of 76.
To remedy this situation, the Ambassador said that the government has submitted a draft law on gender equality and a new draft election law that mandates some 30 percent of the seats in the national legislative body must be held by women. Both drafts will be taken up by the end of this year. Ambassador Bekhbat was resolute that that these necessary legal changes would improve the lives of Mongolian women, Mongolian families and Mongolian society as a whole.
“We fully realize that without attaining this particular Millennium Development Goal of gender equality, other goals – and especially poverty reduction – will be out of reach,” he said.
written by GGP board member Debra Marks