The inclusion of women in governance processes and in decisions made about sustainability and development has long been a concern to researchers and policy makers. This thesis adds to debates by exploring contextual factors that influence women’s participation in governance in Mongolia and by examining women’s perceptions of their involvement in governance processes. Structuration provides a basis for theorising, while a social ecological model offers an organising framework to consider key recommendations. Observations, in-depth interviews and focus groups are used to explore contextual issues; women’s perceptions of the roles they perform and women’s involvement in formal and informal governance at the local Mongolian level.
Mongolia is facing rapid change following soviet withdrawal and a new democratic government. The country has existing and untapped mineral wealth and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The country is at a challenging time of transition, where much is at stake and many interested parties poised ready to tap into its potential wealth. The strengthening of good governance and citizen engagement, accountability and transparency presents ongoing concerns. Scant literature and research exists concerning women’s participation in local governance in Mongolia, particularly in a number of geographical areas that are facing substantial development and change. One example is Dornogobi, where an enormous industrial park is planned to be built in the Soum of Sainshand, which is the capital of Dornogobi and the focus of this study. Important decisions are being made in this province of Mongolia. These decisions will impact on local women for many years to come. The inclusion of women’s voices in decision making in the province is essential for good governance and for the advancement of policies and programs that will enhance local development and strengthen positive outcomes.
The findings from the thesis indicate a lack of will by local government to encourage meaningful participation by women in decision making and few apparent structures to support participatory processes. Additionally, participation in governance processes was not found to be at the forefront of women’s concerns. Women were burdened with a variety of roles, responsibilities and challenges. Participation in governance presented an additional challenge to that which occupied women’s daily lives of supporting families and sustaining livelihoods.
Key recommendations from the study relate to poverty reduction, improved governance and gender mainstreaming. Firstly, poverty reduction is vital for women to be able to participate fully in public decision making and governance processes. Economic assistance, financial support and social and economic policies should be established to assist women to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Credit facilities should be more readily available, as should avenues for training to meet new and emerging employment demands.
Secondly, gender mainstreaming needs to be incorporated into all avenues of policy. Although commitments have been made at the national level there is little evidence that local level organisations and agencies, including local government, have attempted to implement gender aware policies and interventions. To achieve gender mainstreaming and positive change at the local level, it is necessary to strengthen the provision of human, economic and political resources, and to foster the awareness of politicians, policy makers, practitioners and citizens to the issues involved.
Finally, greater participation by both women and men from all social and economic groups at the community level is fundamental if the design of policies, programs and local initiatives are to be improved. Funding of projects should be decentralized and organised at the community level to allow on-going input by local people into the development, design and evaluation of undertakings. Effective transparent and socially inclusive methods should be established to assist women to play a crucial participatory role in the creation, implementation and evaluation of projects. It is imperative that local women become key participants in governance processes and in the determination of priorities that impact on all sections of their lives.