25 June 2019


Good morning and welcome. I am delighted to be at this important event with you.

Mongolia’s women have a long legacy as leaders, holding office since the Mongol Empire – centuries before their counterparts elsewhere in Asia, or Europe. And, after its collapse, it was not a Khan, but Queen Manduhai, who reunited Mongolia again.

Today, female leaders like you matter more than ever. Not only is equal opportunity a fundamental human right enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also crucial to our shared future.

Women have a critical role to play in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals – to end poverty, protect the planet and promote peace. Many targets specifically recognize women’s equality and empowerment as both an objective, and part of the solution to a more sustainable, inclusive world.

Our evidence shows strong development gains are made when women lead. When women are in office, their needs are better reflected in public affairs and legislation. It was, for example, the Women’s group in Parliament that pushed for the Domestic Violence Law. We also see female MPs champion social and environmental issues more.

Unfortunately, women are vastly under-represented in elected office worldwide; making up just 24% of elected officials in national parliaments globally. In Mongolia – 94 years after gaining the right to vote and be elected – women make up only 17% of parliamentarians, and no Aimag Governors. 

So to have so many of you in the one room today, elected representatives of your communities, is wonderful to see.

The three goals of today’s leadership forum are: Celebrate, Unite and Act.

Firstly, celebrating women’s achievements is a critical part of achieving gender equality. I also believe it is something that, as a society, we need to improve on.

Earlier this year, a picture was tweeted of a scientist responding in excitement after having produced the first ever image of a black hole. The scientist, 29-year-old Katie Bouman, led the team of researchers that created the algorithm, which produced this remarkable image.

While Katie acknowledged it was a team effort, there was a backlash online against her, with many trying to prove it was one of her male colleagues who did most of the work. This culture of denying or doubting women’s achievements is something we must all work to change. Because too often, we take on these beliefs, and doubt our own abilities.  Women will generally only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the selection criteria, while men will apply if they meet 60%.

It is crucial that we continue to take chances and put ourselves forward, even where we might not tick every box. What also needs to be challenged are stereotypes that women are less capable or less suited to leadership roles, or particular professions.

The National Committee on Gender Equality and UNDP Mongolia in 2012 found people expressed a preference for men in leadership roles, because they saw them as more visionary, experienced and consistent than women.

All of you, as elected leaders in your communities, are already doing so much to shift attitudes and stereotypes. But discriminatory attitudes must be challenged through awareness campaigns across society, to encourage women to take on leadership roles. Which brings me to today’s second goal: Unite.

In line with the UN global He for She campaign, we need society – and especially, men – to unite with women, by stepping up and speaking out in support of their political and professional equality.

Equality at work begins with equality at home. We need husbands and partners to share the load of childcare and household chores. But gender stereotypes often discourage men from playing a bigger role at home. When in fact by taking on household and childcare responsibilities more equally men can make valuable contributions to society. This needs to be more explicitly recognized and we all need to continuously challenge and transcend these age old stereotypes.

We also need the government, businesses and all of society to act and create the enabling environment for women to reach the top.

Actions needed include clear, consistent policies that are enforced in addition to well defined targets such as quota that aim at overcoming the disparities in female leadership in politics and in the corporate world.

Non-discriminatory hiring should be enforced in the public and private sectors, while responding to gender-specific needs. To allow women to work continuously and to combine professional careers with family roles, this needs to be accompanied by expanding the availability and quality of childcare and eldercare. Policies for paid maternal and paternal leave are also needed to support a women’s right to work, and a man’s ability to support her in her aspirations. More must also be done to ensure equality in pay. In particular, narrowing the gap with male counterparts, which currently stands at around 12.5% in Mongolia, should be a priority.

Lastly, we - as women - must also get better at supporting each other. Unlike men who actively use their networks and boys’ clubs for peer support and to advance their careers, women often perceive reaching out to other women in leadership position as a sign of weakness.  We should all work on changing this perception in our heads and consciously and more systematically establish our own girls’ clubs!

To empower more women, UNDP is proud to have trained over 2,000 elected female representatives in Mongolian’s local hurals between 2014 and 2016, helping them change their communities. And the UN and UNDP stand ready to support Mongolia’s female leaders even further in future.

I congratulate you all on your achievements, and thank you for your contributions to your communities, and to Mongolia. As Mongolia’s past reveals, female leaders can change history. So it’s in the interest of every man, woman and nation to fight for them. 

I wish you all productive discussions towards equality in politics, today and tomorrow. Thank you!

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