Mongolia is at a turning point in its history. For decades, much of the population lived nomadically. They moved about with the changing seasons in search of food and pasture for their animals. Yet Mongolia has since experienced a period of rapid urbanization. Following the end of the socialist regime in the early nineties, the country has made significant development progress. For example, Mongolia ranks 90th out of 188 countries on the UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Index. The country also holds extensive reserves of copper, gold, oil, and coal - exports of which are its primary source of revenue.
The future for Mongolia looks bright, with nearly 45% of the population under the age of 24. Yet their potential has not yet been fully harnessed. In particular, they face many barriers to successfully transitioning from school into the workplace. Rural youth in particular, who make up 36% of the overall youth population, are on average less educated than their urban peers. They also often hold insecure, unskilled jobs in the informal economy which offer low pay and little in the way of social security or benefits.
For young women, Mongolia has taken considerable strides toward greater gender equality. Women outnumber men in school attendance across all ages from seven to 22. Women also actively participate in social and economic spheres. However, they are significantly underrepresented in power-sharing and decision-making roles. The persistence of widespread gender stereotypes has also resulted in gender disparities in terms of poverty, vulnerability, and economic opportunities. Their participation in unpaid work is higher than men, even though there is gender parity in formal employment.
In Mongolia, we partner with like-minded organizations and the Mongolian government to increase and improve the economic opportunities available to youth and women as their active participation in the economy and society will be key to ensuring continued, sustainable growth for the country.
In Mongolia, the Uniterra program, jointly operated by WUSC and CECI, uses a market systems approach to enhance economic opportunities for women and youth. This work is focused on two of Mongolia’s growing economic sub-sectors: fibre processing (cashmere, yak, camel, and sheep’s wool) and residential construction (including Canadian wood-frame housing construction). Throughout our work with local actors, we strive to facilitate stronger linkages between partners to help them tackle economic and social patterns of inequality, exclusion, and the social fragmentation of women and youth.
Also in Mongolia, WUSC and CESO are providing technical assistance to the Mongolian Government through the Mongolia: Enhancing Resource management through Institutional Transformation (MERIT) initiative. With the support of skilled Canadian volunteers, we seek to support the Mongolian Government in their efforts to improve management of their export-led growth, protect their environment and natural assets, and ensure equitable sharing of benefits among citizens, particularly women and youth.
WUSC has been operating in Mongolia since 2015.