Gender equality is the idea where male and female are given equal opportunity within a social, educational and workplace setting. In a perfect world, this idea of equality would work seamlessly and it is only fair, right? However, we live in an imperfect world where the chips don’t always fall into place. Achieving this ideal is rather difficult as it requires control of the mentioned institutions and maintenance of policies which ensure gender equality. According to the United Nations, Mongolia has achieved a medium level of gender equality. Supposedly, some of the issues that the Australian society has, such as the gendered wage gap and the glass ceiling has not risen in Mongolian society.
If you were travelling to the so-called “barren wasteland” known as the Mongolian countryside, there reside nomadic herding households striving for survival. Due to the demanding and rough conditions of the grassy steppes, men did all the farming and hunting for food, whereas the women did domestic household chores. Women are more prone to have more responsibilities, as they look after the animals and other duties. In ancient times in the era of Genghis Khan, the warlord implemented some degree of gender equality, by allowing his daughters take over his reign and putting women in high ranks due to the fact that he believes in the power of women.
Reflection of equal values in language
They say if you were to look at one’s society and in terms of what they value, it is essential to look at their language. Language is a system of communication which connects the individual to a social phenomenon. Without it, there is no verbal labelling in terms of setting up a societal customs and traditions. In the case of Mongolian, a unique language which has its origins in Altaic linguistics, there is a certain curiosity when studying the language in terms of gender.
A good indication that reflected in the use of gender-neutral pronouns used in their everyday language. “Due to the nomadic culture within Mongolia, everyone has a system of doing things within the tribe. Everyone is treated equally and no one is inferior to one another, therefore the use of the pronoun (“Ter”) to refer to he/she is an indication of that,” Oochimeg, a language teacher said. “It is only gendered specific referring to biological sex of a person—for example, boy and girl.”
There is a sense of pride when speaking Mongolian which can apply to both female and male, as they take pride what the language holds in terms of their values. When I asked Oochimeg about how she feels about speaking Mongolian, she replied, “There is an ongoing trend of young people learning other foreign languages. English is considered to be the language of globalisation. I’m proud to able to speak this language”.
Gender equality in modern Mongolia
After almost seventy years of socialism, Mongolia finally became an independent democratic country which now implements the same notion of gender equality which derives from the nomadic culture. In a democracy, gender equality is achieved through legislation which holds a society to a certain standard. One of them is the Constitution of Mongolia, a social reform which consolidates women’s rights. Article 16 of the Constitution ingrained gender equality stating; “Men and women have equal rights in the political, economic, social, cultural life and family relations.” A most recent legislation which has been formulated in 2011 called “Law on Promotion of Gender Equality” which specifically oversees the responsibilities in advocating gender equality in the mentioned institutions. Due to the implementation of these two legislations, Mongolia has been rated the second best in East Asian Pacific region according to Social Watch. It is ranked 81 below New Zealand (82) and ranks above Australia (80) and the average of the region is 69.
In terms of education, men and women have equal access to higher education and public schooling. Women are considered to be more educated than men, therefore, there is more representation in the high-ranking workplace in areas of business and politics. According to the United Nations Development Report, “Mongolia has enacted various pieces of legislation to reduce disparities in society for women. In terms of parliamentary representation, there are 14.5% of female politicians that sit in Parliament. In 2016, the parliamentary members have risen from that number to 17.1% which consisted of 13 female politicians out of 76 members of Parliament.”
In comparison to Australian Society
Mongolia has reached quite a substantial level of gender equality compared to the Western World, surprisingly. In the Western world, there is the concept of the glass ceiling that insinuates that despite being educated and capable for a senior position in the corporate world, it almost improbable getting there because of the inherent gender bias. In Australia, there is only 17 percent of CEOs and as for parliamentary seats in Australia, it varies between parties—Australian Labour and Greens (left-leaning) representation of women make up 45%, whereas more conservative party would there are less than 10% of women who represent their party.
Representation in institutions such as the corporate world and parliament are important, the glaring issue of the gender wage gap. In Mongolia, there is no wage gap in terms of professional careers within the corporate world. According to Robinson and A. Solongo who wrote the paper on the “Gender dimensions of Mongolia,” “Pay was similar for men and women and the wage difference was small and had been largely controlled and remained little changed—monthly wages were centrally controlled.” However, when measuring the wage gap in Australia, full-time average weekly earnings of women and men, there is a 16% difference. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2017). It has a lot to do with the type of industry which is typically “female” and “male”, and historically female-dominated industries such as public relations fashion etc. are considered to be lower paid.
Although Mongolia’s pragmatic policies are seen as a success in closing the gender disparities, there are a few issues such as domestic violence in private homes that should not be ignored. But, in terms of education and the workplace which are largely emphasized, it is something that is commendable and hopefully it continues to flourish in years to come.