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The Strong Women Of Mongolia Are Ready To Take On The Patriarchy

Gerelee Odonchimed, clamp executive of Women for Change, modeled for this half-nude photo.

Katya Cengel/for NPR


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Katya Cengel/for NPR

Gerelee Odonchimed, clamp executive of Women for Change, modeled for this half-nude photo.

Katya Cengel/for NPR

Gerelee Odonchimed was 23 a initial time she pronounced a word vagina. It was 2011 and she had recently assimilated a new women’s rights organisation in a Mongolian collateral of Ulaanbaatar. For their initial project, a organisation motionless to theatre The Vagina Monologues, a play where women pronounce about their vaginas.

The subject isn’t something Asian and Mongolian women customarily speak about, says Zolzaya Batkhuyag, a group’s co-founder. So she reserved a women homework. After operation expel members were told to use mirrors to “say hi to their vaginas.” Six years later, Batkhuyag, who is 34 and speaks smooth English, laughs during a memory: “Our initial plan was crazy, so after that zero is crazy for us.”

Founded by 4 immature lawyers, a organisation announced their initial assembly on Facebook. Back afterwards they called themselves Young Women for Change. They have given forsaken a “young” to be some-more inclusive. They now count some-more than 80 members. Half a dozen of those members met during their new bureau on a Friday dusk in early August. Their 13th building domicile in a complicated building in Ulaanbaatar is a sign of how distant they have risen in a brief time.

Narantulga Buriad with a comic book about domestic assault that she illustrated.

Katya Cengel/for NPR


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Katya Cengel/for NPR

Strong women are not new to Mongolia. Unusual for a building country, Mongolian women are indeed improved prepared than men, accounting for 62 percent of college, university and hospital graduates in 2015, according to a National Statistics Office. They have reduce rates of stagnation than their masculine counterparts and on normal live 75.1 years — a decade longer than men.

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Tim Jenkins, communications officer for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Mongolia, remembers a oddity a organisation drew several years ago when they constructed a vast graffiti square of a lady violation by chains. Now he sends other immature artists to a site to find inspiration. More recently a classification combined a comic book to pull courtesy to domestic violence, a pierce timed to coincide with a 2016 revised law that finally done domestic assault a crime. Reliable statistics are tough to obtain, though according to UNFPA an estimated one out of any 5 Mongolian women suffers from domestic violence.

Growing adult in Gobi-Altai Province in a southwest of a country, Odonchimed says she gifted a emanate firsthand. In a early 1990s after a tumble of communism, many families suffered in a mercantile and amicable chaos. Raised mostly by her grandmother, Odonchimed says her father drank and was abusive.

“I consider it’s a same for many Mongolians,” says Odonchimed, who is dressed in fashionably ripped jeans and a white button-down shirt. “Most of them were experiencing domestic violence.”

It was not until after she began study law and assimilated Women for Change that Odonchimed talked about her experience. Now in her purpose as clamp executive of a classification she is fervent to share her story and pull courtesy to other women’s issues, such as physique image. When a organisation motionless to reconstruct classical paintings by photographing women in unclothed and partially unclothed poses, she volunteered to poise with a unclothed back. While Odonchimed enjoys carrying her print taken and is slim and young, other models suggested bodies that are not always suspicion of as pleasing since they are heavier or older. The thought was to uncover that there is beauty in all physique types.

Their innovative projects would not be probable if it weren’t for a organizations that came before them, says Batkhuyag. These organizations, determined after a approved series in a early 1990s, combined a space and sourroundings for a immature women behind Women for Change — who, distinct their predecessors, have been unprotected to giveaway media, democracy and a accumulation of cultures. Batkhuyag also credits a media with assisting widespread a organization’s message.

“Because of Facebook or amicable media, we can widespread or disseminate a information to all a immature people,” she says.

Budee Mendbayar motionless to join after training about a organization’s Professional Women Leadership Program on Facebook. At university, Mendbayar, now 33, remembers how usually a womanlike students were approaching to stay after to purify a classroom. Later, when operative for a government, she beheld a same trend. Women were always asked to make coffee and tea no matter their position. The men, she says, were never approaching to assistance out.

“I felt it was not right, though it’s tough to tell them it is not right since it is already tradition, already supposed culture,” she says.

Batchimeg Batsuren is some-more than a decade younger than Budee, only 22, though she too recalls being treated differently since of her sex. As a child she was done to purify adult while her brothers went out to play, a purpose that she was told would ready her for marriage. She assimilated Women for Change after reading Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 strike book Lean In: Women, Work, and a Will to Lead. Dressed in a purple hoodie and jeans, she loves to speak about soccer. In serve to being a group’s plan officer she coaches a internal masculine soccer organisation and can frequently be found examination internal and general games. People doubt because a lady is meddlesome in a sport, she says, though she shrugs off a comments.

Bolormaa Mashlai, president for a non-government classification Women Leader Foundation, belongs to a opposite generation. Instead of prejudiced unclothed art photographs, her bureau facilities a framed design of Margaret Thatcher. At 50, Mashlai favors dress suits and wears her shoulder length hair in a essential ponytail. Her English is educated and heavily accented. In 2005 she became a initial conduct secretary of a newly combined National Committee on Gender Equality. She filled a purpose again from 2012 to 2015. While she appreciates Women for Change, she admits it is not directed during her generation, that is some-more regressive and traditional. The stream transformation is being made by women who have been shabby by amicable media and bearing to other cultures by denunciation and a Internet.

“They have open eyes and are deliberating women’s right more,” she says.

In a 4 years she has been in a country, UNFPA Mongolia deputy Naomi Kitahara has also beheld an honesty and clarity of wish in a younger era that came of age after a tumble of communism.

“They’re stretchable in their thinking,” she says. “They have that appetite of perplexing out new things.”

Mendbayar credits a organisation itself for partial of that confidence. When she mislaid her supervision pursuit after a choosing of a opposite party, a common occurrence here, she also mislaid her confidence. The women in a classification helped her benefit a certainty she indispensable to find a new pursuit as a growth dilettante during a mining company.

“Now we can say, ‘Yes, we can do that.’ Because even if we fail, we have a community. we have my sisterhood, they can support me,” she says.

Jenkins, with UNFPA, has met a series of immature women that he says have been emboldened by Women for Change’s actions: “Like in any culture, for any women’s movement, any era takes it a step further.”

Katya Cengel is a author of a arriving “Exiled: From a Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back.” She reported from Mongolia on a brotherhood from a International Reporting Project (IRP). You can find her on chatter @kcengel