Partnership of Activists towards Women’s Rights and Environmental Justice Solidifies
Mongolia has recently witnessed a crucial event, which deepens the community-level, horizontal cooperation between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on women’s rights and environmental justice issues.
Initial partnership between Mongolian NGOs – Mongolian Women’s Fund (MONES) and Oyu Tolgoi Watch (OTWatch) – both of whom are members of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) since 2016, started with attending a workshop on mechanisms to lodge complaints into banks and gender policies of banks, specifically organized in Mongolia by Bankwatch, an international development bank watchdog. This ongoing partnership entered a new phase in which MONES grantee organizations, groups, and OTWatch partners staged a joint meeting for the first time in March this year.
The main goal of the meeting was not only to exchange experiences, but also to build a partnership among citizens, groups, and organizations working on women’s and environmental issues at the local level in order to bring environmental justice on the ground.
Environmental organizations were keen to learn more about best practices of certain projects being implemented by women’s organizations. They focused on case studies and methodologies of how women in Zavkhan province singlehandedly stopped mining operations in their local area which used water illegally and how women in Baganuur district managed to collectively demand to make information open and transparent for the local citizens and filed a complaint to the World Bank. On the other hand, women’s organizations were interested in how environmental groups went about public interest litigations and complaint mechanisms.
OTWatch partner groups working on goldmine issues in Zaamar soum of Tuv province revealed that they used to focus only on getting information related to the environmental assessment and feasibility study, and demanded mining companies to eliminate relevant violations regarding these documents, let alone human rights issues of women living in the mining areas and women’s rights issues of women working in the mine.
Similarly, women’s groups analyzed and studied issues from the perspectives of how women’s rights violations and mining extraction have negative impacts on the lives of local people, in particular on women’s lives.
Consequently, both parties agreed that it is essential and necessary that women’s rights and environmental justice NGOs and groups collaborate and partner with each other because tackling these issues from one angle only is not effective anymore. Working in complementarity would not only help them to discover that there are mining-induced, negative environmental impacts, but also to enable these stakeholders to see both actual and potential risks facing human rights and gender equality in a more holistic, comprehensive, and intersectional way, making collective voices even more powerful when they conduct advocacy targeting the local authorities and mining companies.
In order to identify the needs for collaboration, participants came up with what kinds of women’s rights issues environmental organizations should know. Women’s NGOs addressed and highlighted the importance of exchanging information and viewpoints on the accessibility and advocacy with mining companies and relevant environmental laws.
As a first step, both parties agreed to establish a horizontal partnership in order to exchange their information and experiences, to resolve common issues in their respective local and regional areas collectively, and to better learn from past lessons.
Members of the partnership identified their first thematic area of collaboration to be an advocacy effort to develop standards towards providing compensation for the citizens affected by forced relocation caused by mining and other activities.
They will share and exchange their own activities via social media. Both MONES and OTWatch will coordinate and oversee their collaborative activities in its initial stage, providing adequate technical support.