Women empowerment in small scale artisanal mining
She didn’t want to become a herder because she had an education, so she followed others to Ulaanbaatar city and worked in a factory for 2 years. The factory work was hard and the labor value was very low. Her salary was only enough to survive, so she left it and went back to her hometown. In 2002, it was hard to find a job in soums and even aimags, which made her to follow the crowd going to mine gold. Therefore, she went to a place named Dashaa, 40 kilometers away from her aimag, and turned into a “ninja” with a green pan, shovel and rubber gloves, she reminisced.
To work all four seasons holding a shovel and a hoe, digging 13 to 20 meters of deep hole, carrying 50 kilograms of soil, and to live by escaping when there is a light in the mines during the night is reluctant for women, and even for men. However, she was fierce and not discouraged from it, and worked hard. She traded gold that she had found for cash, fulfilled her basic needs, saved some for her family and worked even harder as she got encouraged, forgetting the hardships. Since life is not perfect, after her parents passed away in 2004, she had to send her 15-year old sibling to school in Ulaanbaatar, leaving herself with her 5 and 1-years old daughters and more responsibility that she needed more mental strength. At that time, she trusted all the people, who traded gold and run shops, and left her 2 daughters with them to do her job. As she entered a mine mountain to find gold, she got caught by police and was transported to aimag. There, she had to hand in all her findings and was called by “a thief” that entered others’ property. It was really hard for her though she overcame those times, when “ninjas” were considered like a not humans to others, by her mental strength. So she migrated wherever gold was and had already spent 8 years doing illegal artisanal mining.
In 2008, Sustainable Artisanal Mining project and local authorities in accordance with Government Resolution 372 held advocacy meetings, distributed materials to promote awareness of artisanal miners getting victimized by their health and lives, and even disclosed the miners that there are opportunities to work together with the local authorities. It was a timely event that opened eyes of the artisanal miners, who had no understanding about non-governmental organizations. “The project not only informed us, but facilitated us to get a non-governmental organizations certificate, seal and stamps, and other necessary documents. They even selected me as a facilitator, so I was paid from the project”, she said, signifying that it really helped to coordinate all the artisanal miners in a short period of time.
The project made the most valuable investment, and she named herself as a live example by the fact she has an excellent computer skills that she can write a soum project, and even got a grant of small project. Thanks to it, their organization got its own fences, and they built sewing factory with full equipment, where they also employed 5 single mothers. In addition, they are also hosting and advertising trainings to empower the members. They organize their conferences, meetings and trainings in their fully equipped ger and strive to make their members to attend the long-term trainings, preparing one to be the tutor to teach others.
Artisanal miners has always faced human rights issues, and they didn’t really understand their rights being violated due to the lack of knowledge, and usually got victimized by their health, like receiving allergies or psychological changes that lead to anxiety. Thus, by receiving trainings from National Human Rights Commission, they are learning about their rights step-by-step and if it is violated, they are freely expressing their voices, and some artisanal miners are even nominating themselves in a local election. Furthermore, she is running a summer kindergarten in artisanal mining center area to solve children’s issue, and it looks like a good deed and a creative operation for all the things she have overcome through her life.
Today, Bayanbumbugur non-governmental organization is consisted of 60 people, ranging from 18 to 60 years old, from 9 different unions, and she believes the secret of managing this big family is a good planning, collaboration and organization. She plans her organization activities for the year, determines and gets approvals for the capital requirements for the cooperations with local administrations and projects, and works in a very structured way. Also, she cooperates with everyone such as international projects, National Federation of Small Scale Artisanal Mining, Governor’s Office, hospitals, kindergartens, police, schools and others. Then, by organizing the local disorder, they received support from the local administration and participated in a public employment tender, as well as in a competitive project. Hence, the members are engaged in local development works such as cleaning the public streets, doing inside maintenances, planting trees, and she is considering it as a contribution from artisanal miners to the local development.
She focuses on long-term operations and working towards her goal to contribute in other eco-friendly and responsible workplaces that would contribute to the local development. For instance, they are letting the land rest at least for a year, and handing over the used lands after reclamation. Overall, they have handed over 9 hectares of land. Moreover, she has spent the last year uniting those who weren’t organized, and trying to make them understand the significances of local support. Thus, she has unified 40 people and said that of course, it is hard for those, who don’t have sufficient knowledge about it, to accept others’ requirements and to socialize, but eventually, they will fill up the holes like others.
Three saving groups were established next to the NGO to secure the women’s financial accessibility to do businesses. In addition to it, they host annual ceremony hosting local authorities and organize awards ceremony and a charity event, not only monetary but also to help elderly people, to prepare their firewoods and clean their surroundings demonstrating NGOs collaboration and result of the good management.