Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt’s Remarks at “Let’s Talk About America” Lecture at the American Corner

Pledging for Parity: U.S. Government Support of Women and Girls in Mongolia

AMBASSADOR GALT: I’m very excited to be here. This is my very first Thursday night talk at the American Corner. And I hope it will not be my last. So it’s great to be here, and great to talk about International Women’s Day, which we celebrated two days ago. And as many of you may know, in the United States, we also celebrate Women’s History Month in March. So this is an extra special time for us to celebrate some of the achievements that women have made around the world, but also to look forward at some of the challenges that still remain. So tonight I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that the United States Government is doing to empower women.

As the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, I am proud to represent a government that, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said, is “the world’s strongest advocate for unlocking the power and potential for progress that women and girls represent.” When women and girls are empowered and educated, they are better able to contribute to their families and their communities. And when women and girls fully participate in all aspects of life, their societies are wealthier and more peaceful, stable, and secure. That is why we must invest in women and girls and give them the chance to lead healthy, safe, and productive lives.

Together, countries around the world have done a lot to promote women’s full and equal participation in society. But the reality is that progress is slowing. Globally, we remain far from achieving gender equality. For those of you on Twitter, you know that the hashtag for International Women’s Day is- who knows? Who knows what the hashtag for International Women’s Day is? Pledge for parity. And parity means equality. So that tells you that we still have a lot of work to do. So in 2015, just last year, the World Economic Forum predicted that the gender gap between men and women would not fully close until 2133. That is 118 years from now. I hope you agree with me that that’s too long to wait. Globally, women and girls are much more affected by poverty and discrimination. Globally, women are often limited to low-paying jobs and struggle to get an education. Globally, relatively few women are in leadership positions, and their participation at all levels in politics and business is relatively low. Globally, gender-based violence remains a problem. Achieving gender equality is a challenge around the world.

Thankfully, achieving full equality between women and men is an important goal for governments, organizations, and individuals in many countries, including Mongolia. Tonight, as I said, I want to tell you a little bit about what the United States is doing to support women and girls right here in Mongolia.

So we have four areas of activity.

First, the United States is supporting women’s political participation. When women participate in politics, they can introduce changes that improve their communities and societies. Through a U.S. organization called the Open World Leadership Center, we funded the travel of five Mongolian members of parliament, including three women, to Washington, DC and Honolulu to meet with national and state legislators, local government officials, business and community organizations, as well as youth. These members of parliament discussed issues affecting all of us, such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and the rights of women and children. We hope they will use their experiences to address these challenges right here in Mongolia.

Another U.S. organization, the Delegation for Friendship among Women, hopes to build friendships between women in the United States and Mongolia. In September, members of this group – doctors, lawyers, rights advocates, entrepreneurs, and teachers – will travel to Mongolia to meet with accomplished women working in these fields. Together, they will discuss shared challenges and ideas for addressing these challenges. We hope this exchange will lead to lasting relationships and dialogue that benefits us all.

As Ambassador, one of my priorities is to help grow the next generation of democratic leaders in Mongolia. And I’m very pleased to see so many young people in the audience tonight. I host monthly meetings in my home with young leaders in government, business, and civil society. We talk about issues related to the current state and future of Mongolia’s democracy, including climate change; the trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection; and foreign policy. I look forward later this month to hosting an all-female group to discuss issues of special concern to women and girls. And last evening, I had the pleasure of hosting a group of women leaders from across Mongolia, and I have to tell you, it was a stimulating and inspiring conversation.

The second area in which the United States is working is to support the inclusion of women in peace and security and helping to fight human trafficking and domestic violence. Mongolia has made impressive progress in including women in peace and security. Over the past five years, the percentage of women attending training provided by the U.S. Department of Defense has increased from 16% to nearly 29%. However, women make up only 17% of the Mongolian Armed Forces. In the U.S. military, there is a similar imbalance between women and men. To try to address this gap, the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu plans to co-host with Mongolia an important workshop later this year on Women in Peace and Security. Participants will identify the barriers that prevent women from participating in the security sector and identify steps to meet this challenge.

The United States dedicates significant resources around the world to fighting human trafficking and assisting its victims, who are often women and children. In Mongolia, we are working through a U.S. company called the Warnath Group to improve the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, which will help address an issue that affects far too many people.

We are also working in a variety of ways to help combat domestic and gender-based violence in Mongolia. The U.S. Department of State has provided $400,000 to the International Development Law Organization to help police, prosecutors, judges, and shelter workers prevent and respond to domestic violence. The Department of State has also provided nearly $250,000 to the National Center against Violence (NCAV), a Mongolian organization, to strengthen shelters’ ability to assist victims. An impressive group of Mongolian experts, most of them women, recently traveled to Alaska to exchange experiences in preventing violence, managing shelters, and helping victims. Later this spring, we will welcome a U.S. expert to Mongolia to provide additional training to shelter staff, and National Center against Violence will take this training to shelters across the country. We hope these programs will improve the lives of the women and children – as well as men – who are victims of violence.

The third area in which the United States is engaged in Mongolia is to empower adolescent girls – young girls. Globally, the U.S. government addresses destructive practices like early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, which harm millions of women and girls. I’d like to talk tonight about another problem that harms millions of girls – it involves the lack of access to something very important. Who knows what that something is? Millions of girls around the world do not do what most of us do every day as young children. Education, studies, go to school – that is exactly right- education. Around the world, 62 million girls are not in school, and millions more struggle to stay in school.

Through the “Let Girls Learn” program, First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps have worked to expand access to education for adolescent girls globally, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State. Mongolia is one of 14 countries chosen to participate in this program, whose goal is to cultivate greater opportunity for women and girls through education and economic opportunity.

Last fall, Mongolia’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative began with three projects. Three Peace Corps volunteers in Mandalgobi, Dundgovi began a youth soccer league in cooperation with a local organization called Positive Youth Movement. Participants learn about teamwork and healthy lifestyles. In Jargalant, Khovd, another Peace Corps volunteer teaches classes to encourage parents’ involvement in child development. That Peace Corps volunteer is also planning a diversity appreciation day at a local school to teach the value of diversity in the community. In Bulgan aimag, still another Peace Corps volunteer is working on a community-wide project for girls that includes a speaker series and “You Can!” projects that teach skills such as healthy cooking techniques.

Through these three projects and more, our 132 Peace Corps volunteers in all 21 aimags across Mongolia teach English and promote youth development and better health. Their work, especially in education, helps girls gain the self-esteem, skills, and knowledge they need to participate actively in their communities and societies.

Americans and Mongolians share democratic values that lead us to want to see the equal and full participation of women and girls in society. Achieving this goal requires action from governments and individuals alike. So tonight, I ask you to make your pledge for parity; your pledge for equality. Will you be like Naranbulag, the Fulbright graduate who led her team to design and deliver entrepreneurship training to 100 women living in the ger districts? Or will you be like Enkhjargal, the skilled National Center Against Violence leader who manages projects to combat domestic violence and leads Monfemnet to improve women’s communications and interpersonal skills? Or will you be like Aisholpan, the remarkable teenager who became an eagle huntress – the first woman to do so in a tradition that is 2,000 years old?

Will it really take 118 years for us to achieve gender equality? If men and women join forces, with the help of everyone here in this room, I am sure that we can accelerate this change. We can support continued progress for women’s issues all over the world to make a better world for us all.  Thank you very much, and I would be very happy to take any questions that you might have. Thank you.