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FEATURE STORY March 8, 2020

Breaking Barriers in Mongolia: Ulziitogtokh Davaasuren


For International Women’s Day 2020, we’re getting to know the pioneering women across East Asia Pacific who are breaking barriers and creating change for the decade ahead. Ulziitogtokh Davaasuren is pediatrician by training and has been working to improve health services in her province since 2017. Meet Ulziitogtokh.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ulziitogtokh  Davaasuren. I live in Govisumber aimag in Mongolia.

I am a pediatrician by training and worked as a volunteer for 15 years helping alcoholics and their families recover from the impacts of alcoholism and return to their normal lives.

Since 2017, I have been working to improve health services in our province together with civil society organizations and residents. This includes various initiatives that I have led under the theme ‘Healthy heart – healthy movement – healthy ethics’. These initiatives include establishing a cardiovascular unit in our hospital, organizing public exercise programs and marathons to improve public health, as well as restoring operations of the provincial hospital’s ethics subcommittee. We helped introduce citizen’s score cards and social audits to provide an evidence-base from which to make informed decisions to improve health services, professional ethics, and public health in our province .

We are starting to see the results of our work. After organizing public exercise for 86 days, a number of people reported losing weight and no longer needed to take medicines for their cardiovascular diseases. We also didn’t have a specialized unit in the hospital to treat patients with cardiovascular diseases, although cardiovascular diseases are one of the most prevalent diseases and the leading cause of death among local residents. Therefore, people used to go to the capital city Ulaanbaatar to have an ultrasound and other tests, suffering from delayed diagnosis, complications, and extra budget they spend on travel.

I saw this as a major social accountability issue. To solve it, we didn’t wait for change to come from outside, but organized donation campaigns and concerts to raise money for the necessary medical equipment for the cardiovascular unit. One nurse was trained in the central hospital no.3 in the city. Now that we have the specialized cabinet in our hospital, people go to the city less often.

We also restored the operations of the hospital ethics sub-committee. In doing so, we concentrated on addressing the root cause of unethical attitude and behavior in medical staff. Instead of trying to solve the problem only at the level of addressing incoming complaints from patients, we  also organized risk-mitigation and awareness raising events. We thought it’s important to address this issue because local residents used to encounter unprofessional and unethical behavior from medical professionals almost every day, which may negatively affect the treatment results or even further harm human health. Our subcommittee was recognized as the best by the Ministry of Health.


What inspires you?

I believe that a woman’s true beauty lies inside her heart. I truly desire to be compassionate to the poor, respect the elders, and righteously bring up our children and youngsters so they can have a good future. This encourages me to do any tasks with courage and passion.


How do you see East Asian Women Breaking Barriers? What does that mean to you?

Active participation of women in society is necessary and valuable in all countries. If a woman is determined to do something, she works till the end and doesn’t give up. This is what I saw from the members of our ethics subcommittee.

Seven out of nine members of the subcommittee are women. We have worked together for two years on a voluntary basis to improve social accountability and bring change to our community. There were many instances when we wanted to give up, but we kept on seeking new solutions and methods. It was challenging for us to bring up our issues to the government organizations on behalf of residents, and to seek accountability in a small community such as ours. However, what we started today serves as an example to other communities and we are happy to have shared our experience with other provinces.


Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

I always remind myself of the saying “Love others just the same way you love yourself”, and I strive to act on it. Whenever something difficult happens to others, I always put myself in their shoes and ask myself how I would have solved this problem, seeking options for solution. This makes me stronger.


Where do you see Mongolia and women in 25 years?

The role and space of civil society in Mongolia keeps growing as the country develops. With this change, civil society organizations themselves – local CSOs in particular – need to improve their capacity so that they can better monitor, link and cooperate to improve government services for citizens.

Women are leading many CSOs today, but they keep facing many challenges and resistance. Local CSOs in particular have funding issues to continue their operations. I wish that more Mongolian women would actively participate and have their say in the society through local CSOs in the future.     


What Do you Think is needed in Mongolia for more equality between men and women? (#EachForEqual)

Through all these years that I worked at civil society and other organizations, my family, and particularly my husband, have always supported me and my work. My husband’s encouragement and care have been crucial for me to keep going and never give up. If all men provide such kind of support for us, I think more women will be able to do what they love and believe in.


If you could use one word to describe women in Mongolia what would it be?

I would use two words: Love and Care.


What is your big hope for Mongolian women in the future?

Women have a lot of opportunities to make positive impact, whether it be in our families or our communities. However, we all need a little support to break the gender stereotypes and expectations of what we can and should do as women to fully realize our potential. This is especially true for women at provincial level. This will help us develop not only as individuals, but also contribute more to our society.