21 May 2020

By Brunelle Thomas, Gender Adviser of Transparency International Mongolia

This blog is an extract of TI-Mongolia’s synthesis of the existing literature on gender inclusivity within the mining sector in Mongolia. Its purpose is to provide interested readers with reliable, up-to-date sources.

Photo by enriquejggac, licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Gender dynamics in Mongolia have been shaped by social-cultural norms, six decades of socialism (1924-1989), and the transition to a market economy in the past 23 years. Mongolia has issued extensive legislation to advance gender equality and women are, on average, better educated and healthier than men. However, diminishing female participation in national politics, increasing wage gaps and male dominance in key economic sectors are emerging phenomena.” – The Asia Foundation

The same gender inequalities between men and women in leading positions are visible when assessing the gender-based labor division in the extractive industries:

“The expected traditional roles for women such as family carers or providing support remain an issue that impedes the advancement of women at various levels. For instance, at the operational level, women’s jobs tend to be concentrated in administrative positions and provision of clerical or domestic services with a similar division in mine sites (…) The fairness of the recruitment, promotion, and empowerment of women in the industry has long been questioned.” – Nattavud Pimpa

The extractive industry sector has an important part to play in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. “Historically, however, mining has contributed to many of the challenges that the SDGs are trying to address – environmental degradation, displacement of populations, worsening economic and social inequality, armed conflicts, gender-based violence, tax evasion and corruption, increased risk for many health problems, and the violation of human rights”. (World Economic Forum et al.)

In recent decades, some mining companies around the world have started to recognize that gender equality has a significant impact in economic development and social progress, and have committed to improve their gender inclusion policies and actions to benefit women’s empowerment in various aspects of their activities.

Despite the apparent openness of the sector in discussing gender-related issues, “certain analyses demonstrate that the business case for diversity in the workplace is fundamentally harnessed by the industry to perpetuate the status quo—which is of a highly masculinized sector—while presenting a modern and acceptable face to society.” (Catherine Macdonald)

Gender, corruption and mining

Mongolia is a resource-rich country and the extractive industries are particularly powerful, sometimes even closely related to political elites. TI-Mongolia’s research found the mining sector to be particularly at-risk regarding corruption, conflict of interest, bribery and land or resource mismanagement.

“Corruption operates in a context where women are underrepresented at different levels of decision making and are most often denied the benefits from social and economic development. Women’s limited participation in mining-related consultations means that the potential impact of the mining project on women will not be captured or taken into serious consideration and mitigated in mining operations.” TI Accountable Mining Programme Gender Strategy

At the same time, poor community engagement can lead to the interests of the different groups of women and men in the community to be ignored by companies and leaders for their own gain, especially during the licence approval process.

It has become increasingly acknowledged by organizations and corporations that, “safe, accountable, accessible and, most importantly, gender sensitive mechanisms that take into account cultural and gender issues that might hinder reporting, should be created.” – Transparency International

By improving its accountability, the mining sector can positively contribute to the advancement of the SDGs and foster economic development.

Transparency International’s commitment to gender equality

We want to involve women in the decision-making process by including them in our multi-stakeholder discussions, where investors, companies, governments and civil society will increase their effort to systematically represent them.

Educating women and communities on the differentiated impacts of corruption on men and women in Mongolia is a first and necessary step towards comprehensive understanding of mining and gender-related issues. In order to do so, it is essential that NGOs work together with the government and the National Gender Committee, and assert their bargaining power.

We are advocating with government agencies and mining companies to be aware of the need to make their processes and guidelines more gender inclusive to enable different groups of women to know and exercise their rights, and to engage in relevant mining processes.

 “Only through the equal participation of women can we benefit from the intelligence, experience and insights of all of humanity. Women’s equal participation is vital to stability, helps prevent conflict, and promotes sustainable, inclusive development. Gender equality is the prerequisite for a better world.” – Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General