Despite having grown up in America, I love being in Mongolia, the country of my birth and my childhood. I love the crisp, cold mornings, and the perfect tinge of blue overhead. I love the architecture and the downtown, a blend of history and modernity. I love hearing Mongolian being spoken around me. I love the steam of freshly cooked buuz, the sizzle of huushuur and the savory smell of suutai tsai. But most of all, I love the feeling I get – the feeling of finally coming home, the feeling of being so totally accepted and fitting in.
Now, this is both false and true. It’s false because I did not go through any of the quintessential experiences of growing up in Mongolia, like high school or summer zuslan. But it is also true because people readily accept me despite the fact that my experiences have been very different from theirs.
But this is not the case for all Mongolians. Mongolia, while by most accounts, is a homogenous society (84.5 percent of all Mongolians identify as Khalkh), it is still greatly diverse. There are communities that are thriving and growing. But these communities and groups are shunned or ignored, and too often pushed to the peripheries, fighting to be recognized and accepted within Mongolian society.
What is an inclusive society? An inclusive society is generally synonymous with social integration – a society for all. It is a society that is “safe, stable, just and tolerant” and one that “respects diversity, equality of opportunity and vulnerable groups and persons”. It means that individuals are not discriminated against on the basis of their race, gender, religion, class, or sexual identity and more.
Some argue that this point is moot at this point of Mongolia’s development. After all, we still need to develop our economy, trade, banking system. We need to battle poverty and air pollution and corruption – all ills, which continue to slow our progress and poison our society. However, I would argue that development isn’t a chronological checklist. Societies progress with all areas somewhat in tandem. One thing helps another – it’s an ecosystem. Making conscious efforts to become a more inclusive society will help us become a better society, a more respectful society, a safer and more stable society.
So is Mongolia an inclusive society right now? If not, where are we lacking and how can we improve?
For the next month, Macongolia will be taking a deeper look at this question and the communities and individuals working to make change happen. We will talk about mental health, about being LGBTQ, about being a foreigner, about being multiracial, about being a single mother, and most of all, we want to hear from you. What are your experiences? What would you like to share about Mongolia and inclusivity or lack thereof? To reach out to us, you can message us directly over Facebook or Twitter, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here we go.
Photo credit: Gonto Erdeneburen
Source: The LGBT Centre (Mongolia)