This month we celebrate and honor the vital role of women in history, society, and economy; hence the Mongolian Gallery wanted to address the importance of women’s role in Mongolian history and economy.
Women’s role in creating Mongolia has been essential during every historical period. Thus, it is impossible to imagine the triumph and success of the Mongol Empire, the effective collectivization of herds in socialist Mongolia, and the thriving local entrepreneurship of modern Mongolia without the participation and presence of Mongolian women.
The world knows Mongolia through its thirteenth-century achievements and expansion and factually relates it with the intelligence and leadership of Genghis Khan. However, wise advisors who assisted Genghis Khan for his outstanding achievements are often forgotten to be regarded. One of them is his mother, Queen Oulen. She guided and encouraged Genghis Khan when there was no one for him after his late father Yesukhei was murdered and their allies stranded him and his family in poverty. Oulen taught her sons to be united and resilient. Historians claim that these are the essential characters that led Genghis Khan and his descendants to success. Even after Genghis was crowned to the khan seat, Oulen has stayed with him as one of his closest advisors and administrators. Besides Queen Oulen, various wise Mongol queens and consorts had been involved in state politics and contributed their intelligence to the grand expansion of the Mongol Empire. During the rise of the Mongol Empire, the role of any Mongol woman was beyond domestic life. They were the administrators of wealth and domain. Alas, Mongol Empire gradually collapsed due to inner conflict and disintegration. After the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongolian women, regardless of being royal, were deprived of their vital roles and subjected to a life of struggle, especially under the rule of the Qing Dynasty.
In 1921, Mongolia obtained its independence and established a socialist state with the help of the Soviet Union. Socialist Mongolia initiated automation, collectivization of herds, a modern education system, and the limitation to freedom of speech and expression. The collectivization of herds was a significant operation and resource to support the state’s operations across the country. Herders were assigned to fulfill the state demand. Consequently, female herders carried as much as loads male herders did while caring for their households and kids. Their endeavor is rarely referred to in Mongolian social and economic history; however, many mothers and grandmothers who have lived through the socialist regime witness women’s crucial role in building a socialist state of Mongolia.
Today Mongolia is a parliamentary democratic country successfully practicing a free market economy. Women in Modern Mongolia have much more freedom to participate in economic life and hold higher positions in any industry than previous generations. Therefore, diverse local business initiatives and non-governmental organizations are successfully led by women, and the impact they are making on society is undeniable. According to a study by the Asian Development Bank in 2020, over 50% of the Micro, Small-Medium Enterprises in Mongolia are owned by female entrepreneurs (Joffre, Luvsandorj, 2020). Yet, the latest studies suggest that more women’s involvement in Mongolian socio-economic life needs to be further encouraged and supported at the policy level to create gender equality in society (Ikon, 2021). Thus, the Mongolian Gallery is always eager to cooperate with women-owned Mongolian businesses and support female entrepreneurs in a foreign market.
The history we know tells us less about women, but there is so much about women’s contributions to creating the current world if we carefully read it. We appreciate Women’s History Month for reminding us of what we often miss and giving us a chance to celebrate the significance of women in our past and present.
Author: Myagmartseren (Gina) Purev