Using technology to prevent violence against adolescent girls in Mongolia: Interview with Ms. Tsolmon Enkhbat at Save the Children Japan, Mongolia office

Despite recent legislation in Mongolia to end violence against women and girls, women are still experiencing high rates of violence. Indeed, nearly 58% of them have experienced at least one form of gender-based violence in their lifetime.

Save the Children Japan, an international non-governmental and children’s rights organization, is implementing a project in Mongolia with the support of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. The project seeks to empower adolescent girls in five low socio-economic districts in the capital Ulaanbaatar with increased knowledge and improved access to survivor-centred support services, including through the use of various innovative technology-based activities and tools.

We talked with Ms. Tsolmon Enkhbat, Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Programs Manager at Save the Children Japan, Mongolia office.

Tsolmon Enkhbat, Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Programs Manager at Save the Children Japan, Mongolia office. She has brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes, she is smiling with her mouth closed.
Tsolmon Enkhbat, Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Programs Manager at Save the Children Japan, Mongolia office.

What type of violence do women and girls currently face in Mongolia? How has the pandemic impacted their realities?

One in ten Mongolian women reports having experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15. In most cases, they don’t know who to turn to for help and are unaware of services available to them.

In addition, many survivors do not seek help due to social norms and fear of their husbands, who are usually the sole breadwinners.

The COVID-19 pandemic, coming on top of the socio-economic crisis in Mongolia, exacerbated gender inequalities and resulted in increased violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence which increased by 50%. Reduced mobility during the lockdowns, as well as social distancing measures, meant fewer support services for survivors, some of whom were forced to stay at home with their abusers.

This significant increase in domestic violence has not subsided and continues to be a source of concern today. There is an urgent need to raise awareness among men and women to stand up against gender-based violence, advocate for positive transformative masculinity and provide better services to survivors.

A photo of two young women writing and drawing at a table, with a blue background. On top, a quote that reads “it is critical to provide adolescents with a wider range of sources on gender-based violence and available services”. This quote is from Tsolmon Enkhbat, Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Programs Manager at Save the Children Japan, Mongolia Office.

Can you tell us more about your project’s trauma-informed approach? How does this approach ensure access to safe support services for women and girl survivors of violence?

Due to lack of these skills and knowledge and heavy workloads, service providers may unintentionally recreate traumatic experiences for survivors. As a response, we have decided to adopt a trauma-informed and survivor-centred approach, which is not widely used in Mongolia, to ensure that survivors receive quality support services.

This approach focuses on understanding survivors’ experiences, as well as the physical, social and emotional impact of trauma, and on providing non-judgemental assistance and ensuring survivors can make informed choices.

We believe this is crucial to make sure that both our project’s beneficiaries and the service providers are aware of the importance of prioritizing survivors’ needs and restoring their feelings of safety and control. As of today, we have trained 289 service providers (doctors, police officers, social workers, school psychologists, etc.) on the use of this specific approach.

Art Therapy training for psychologists and social workers at Shelters and One stop service centers. Credit: Onon Nyamsuren/Save the Children Japan — Mongolia Office

How has technology become an integral part of youth empowerment in your project?

The vast majority of women and girls get their information from their peers at school, or from various media and online channels. We believe it is critical to provide adolescents with a wider range of sources on gender-based violence, prevention and available services.

To this end, our co-partner organization Beautiful Heart involved girls in online and offline discussions in school settings to develop child-friendly SMS content. In collaboration with three mobile phone operators, we have sent three rounds of text messages on prevention of violence against women and girls and how to seek help. Nationwide, this SMS campaign has reached over 347,000 girls, from high school students in Ulaanbaatar to nomadic girls in rural areas.

We are currently developing a large online communication campaign aimed at raising awareness among adolescent girls, their parents and caregivers as well as service providers about the risks and indicators of gender-based violence, with a focus on sexual abuse and exploitation.

We also aim to develop a mobile app called “You Are Not Alone” to allow girls to document, seek assistance and/or post-trauma support, and alert trusted friends if they have been assaulted. This mobile app will automatically connect the user to the child protection hotline or the police emergency call number. In addition, we ensure girls’ ownership over the project’s activities by organizing prevention peer-driven activities in target schools, through Girls Clubs and participatory prevention campaigns developed by students.

Save the Children is also working with researchers to review existing data management systems and programs used by the Mongolian government to collect data on the child protection system, particularly on victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Posters made by students on “good and bad touch” during training organized on Girls’ Day. Credit: Onon Nyamsuren/Save the Children Japan — Mongolia Office

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UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to eradicating all forms of #VAWG. https://untf.unwomen.org/