Interrogating Women's Activism in the Age of Neoliberal Democratization in Mongolia
This thesis interrogates the emergence and evolution of a small number of women-led Mongolian NGOs committed to human rights, women’s rights, substantive democracy and social justice. It relied on a feminist activist auto/ethnographic approach. The data came from a two-month field work in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, participatory research workshops, interviews, NGO archival material, and over twenty years of collective experiences of women activists. The thesis argues that the NGOs provided a new and dynamic avenue for well-educated and politically active women to channel their energies towards promoting democratic reforms and social development in the country. This energy, supported by limited international funding, gave rise to a number of women-led advocacy NGOs, which grew to form the backbone of Mongolia’s emergent civil society. However, in the neoliberal donor funding scheme and overarching discourses on civil society and voluntarism, the women-led sub-sector of the broader NGO sector became established as an unpaid/underpaid sphere dependent on competitive small grants provided by international funders. ‘Voluntary’ came to primarily mean ‘free labour’ rather than ’free choice.’ Women have been corralled into this under-funded sector, locked out of the political society, constantly knocking on the door of the male-controlled state. More activist auto-research is needed to further explore these issues in order to chart our alternative strategies.