“Thank you for creating a new work place for me. I am happy with my work.”, says Narankhuu, a 58-year-old paper sorter, about the new waste management initiative by Bayanzurkh’s elected woman representative (EWR) and Head of Public/ Common Services Nergui Davaasuren.
Mongolia continues to socio-economically transform and address pressing issues including gender inequality. Mongolia was ranked only 65th on UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index (2017). Therefore, women empowerment is at the core of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDC’s) and United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP’s) joint local governance project “Strengthening of the Representative Bodies in Mongolia” (SRBM) that has been running since 2017.
In collaboration with MonFemNet, a local NGO, SRBM provides women leadership trainings (WLTs) for EWRs with the objective to empower them to become effective change agents who influence the local political decision-making process and tackle local issues by building closer engagement with citizens of their respective constituencies.
One of the good practices that has emerged from those WLTs is the paper sorting initiative by Nergui. She learned from a survey that about 60% of the garbage in residential areas is made up of used paper. She started by involving three associations of apartment owners and two trade centers in the recycling initiative cooperating with a private Mongolian paper producing company “Good paper”.
The business process is simple but effective. Paper containers are installed near the residential districts and the trade centers which is done in agreement with the Khoroo Governor. Then roughly every 14 days the truck collects the used paper and stores it in the yard of one of the trade centers until the collected paper has accumulated to a mass of three tons to be transported by trucks to the “Good paper” company that in turn remunerates the Public Services of Bayanzurkh by weight of submitted paper. “Good paper” recycles the paper and reuses it for a diverse range of paper product.
Nergui is very passionate about the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and therefore sees her initiative in more holistic way. On one side it aims at improving waste management but on the other hand it introduces livelihood mechanisms as well. For this reason, the Garbage Sorting Worker selected in the “Dunjingarav” trade center was a 58 years old woman. Although she has reached retirement age her working years were not enough to qualify for a pension. However, when she was looking for a job she was not considered due to her advanced age. Now with her new job she can sustain herself and even her social insurance tax is paid.
Nergui tackles the issue of inappropriate waste management on all fronts. Besides creating new jobs for sorting workers and drivers she has organized public awareness campaigns, and distributed leaflets to explain the negative consequences of garbage without sorting for the climate but people as well. Since March 2019 the first changes can be seen with citizens being very engaged in the paper sorting process themselves. The solid waste could even be reduced by 30% at one of the pilot paper collection sites. Furthermore, since its establishment in 2017 over 30 tons of garbage were sorted by the Public Services of Bayanzurkh as a result of Nergui’s initiative. This resulted in the reduction of waste transport by half since the paper sorting has started.
Nevertheless, the new initiative is not free from challenges. Due to the paper sorting process the tax payment for overall garbage transport has decreased and in general there is a great lack of awareness in the general public about the importance of recycling and sorting of paper, often resulting in people not using the designated paper containers appropriately. Other difficulties include stealing of sorted paper by private individuals, and inaccurate paper weighing by the “Good Paper” company due to inadequate equipment. Moreover, “Good Paper” is located quite far from the paper collection points making transportation lengthy and difficult.
Nergui reckons that it is difficult to be active in politics due to financial constraints. However, the WLTs jointly organized by UNDP and SDC for around 2000 elected women nationwide were a true inspiration on how to overcome this limitation and triggered her to come up with this recycling project. She is mobilizing her resources to tackle one critical issue in urbanization and has strongly advocated for a more active participation of citizens and more proactive work of the Mongolian government. Especially waste management is often uninteresting for men according to her experience due to the low profit margins. But as a woman and mother she is very happy to contribute to a safer and healthier environment for Mongolians and their children. It motivates her to do even more for country and community in the future.
by Stefan Roesch, Knowledge Management officer at UNDP Mongolia, Camille Barras, MomFemnet