I write this blog as our project team embarks on a fifth year of work on women’s land tenure security (WOLTS) with pastoral communities in mining-affected areas of Mongolia and Tanzania. Just before Christmas 2019, we were in Mundarara village in northern Tanzania. Exceptionally heavy rains made getting around much more challenging than usual. Locals travelling on foot had to make wide detours to avoid getting bogged down in waterlogged grazing land, and it took everyone much longer to get to the village primary school for our long-planned training day.
One snowy winter’s day I went to a small winter camp of just two households 140 km from the nearest soum (district) centre. A dog stopped me getting out of the car for some time but eventually a man came to hold it back, explaining that the man from the neighbouring household was away on Otor migration in the mountains with his cattle. The two men were brothers, and the one left behind, Batbold, was taking care of their smaller livestock. It was very cold in his ger and I had the impression that he had not made a fire all day.
“I am one of the woman-headed households in this soum. I have been a herder for many years. For me life is still good, because I have a grown-up son who can help me. He became a herder when he was just 8 years old.”
“How can “property” own property?” It means how can a woman own property like land or housing if she is considered as a man’s property herself.
By Yuta Masuda and Brian E. Robinson
I’m sitting in a Mongolian yurt, listening to and trying to emulate Bataa’s* songs about love for the grasslands and the wide, treeless plains of the Mongolian Plateau. Our host sings with consuming passion. I might have brushed his enthusiasm off as a show two weeks ago. But after living and working in these grasslands, the feeling of freedom that comes from unobstructed, far-off distant horizon is infectious.
Reflections on an old Mongolian saying
At a recent gender training session in Mongolia, a middle-aged man used the old Mongolian saying that “a woman has long hair and a short brain” when we asked participants to name some of the main characteristics of women and men. I was glad that he was corrected by a much older man, who pointed out that the saying relates to traditional gender roles that are already very different from what they were just a few years ago.