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The e-Newsletter of the Gender Network

April 2015 | Vol. 9, No. 1

Small infrastructure investments improve lives of Mongolian Ger area women

By Imrana Jalal and Tsolmon Begzsuren 1

A multitude of positive gender impacts are possible, even from small infrastructure
As a result of rapid urbanization some 60% of the total population of Mongolia now lives in
urban areas. An estimated 46% (330,900) of total households are in ger urban settlements.
Previously rural Mongolians have settled in major urban settlements in Iarger and larger
numbers, in both apartment areas, as well as ger areas2, presenting new development
challenges. Apartment areas have the benefit of providing household connections to basic
services such as water, heating and sanitation. In comparison, ger areas are typically long
stretches of unserviced individual plots with dusty unpaved roads.3 Safe water supply,
connection to heating and sanitation, and accessible roads to schools, markets and health
facilities continue to be problems in the ger areas in the large cities of Ulaanbataar and Erdenet,
as well as other urban settlements. Poor infrastructure in ger areas results in limiting access to
services, constraining mobility and increasing time burdens, particularly for women.
How to provide ger areas with water, roads, schools and access to markets?
The Mongolia Urban Development Sector Project (UDSP)4 attempted to respond to some of
these challenges by providing roads and water supply to some eight ger areas across the
country. A project Gender Action Plan (GAP) helped to identify gender issues and ensure direct
gender benefits, such as (i) improving water supply, access, and time savings particularly for
women, children and students, through investments in water kiosks; (ii) improving safety,
security and mobility within ger areas, and to services such as schools, and (iii) the creation of
permanent employment opportunities for women which will continue beyond the life of the
Assessment of, and planning for gender issues up-front helped to ensure the achievement of
the multitude of positive gender impacts which are possible, even from small infrastructure

Imrana Jalal, Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), ADB, and Tsolmon Begzsuren, Associate Social
Development Officer (Gender), ADB Mongolia Resident Mission, with inputs from Wendy Walker, Principal Social Development
Specialist, EARD, ADB.
A ger area refers generally to an area of unplanned urban settlement, that lacks connection to basic services. See also
definition in the Report and Recommendations for the Urban Development Sector Project (UDSP) at page 1.(Still waiting for
Arnaud to get back on the revised definition)
Report and Recommendations for the Urban Development Sector Project (UDSP) categorized effective gender
mainstreaming, under ADBs gender categorization system

investments. says Tuul Badarch, Senior Project Officer (Infrastructure) at the Mongolian
Resident Mission.
Provision of water supply to ger area households, schools, and kindergartens
The project installed 58 new water kiosks and refurbished 33 water kiosks, which are providing
direct gender benefits in the form of immediate, adequate, potable, safe and more accessible
water, to women in 41,611 ger households in five project areas, consisting of 135,370 people,
of whom 51% are female. Women are the primary agents responsible for retrieving water
supply for households. Previously, ger area residents had to wait, sometimes many hours, for
water trucks to arrive. There was often a shortage of water. As a result of the new and
refurbished project kiosks, continuous adequate water is readily available, and the time burden
for accessing water has been reduced.
In Erdenet, 26 new kiosks and 24 refurbished kiosks
were provided, with 65% of ger residents now having
immediate and adequate access to safe drinking water
supply, within 200 meters of their households,
compared to the baseline of 45% in 2010.

Photo 1. Women collecting water at kiosk No. 18

ger district Bagh Ikh Zaluu.

A female resident of Bagh Rashaant, in which a new

water kiosk was completed in December 2013 said that,
the distance I am walking to collect water is now about
ten minutes in total for one trip. The time is now
reduced by about 50%. Residents may make several

trips a day to collect water.

A female water kiosk vendor, Munkhnairamdal, managing the kiosk at Bulag also remarked
that, The safer water kiosks with its fewer transfer points (direct supply from water reservoirs
through pumps and pipes to the water kiosks) also reduced risks of contamination.
Kindergarten children have also benefitted from the
direct water supply provided by the UDSP. Kindergarten
teachers at Erdenet Bagh No. 11 kindergarten (140
children) said that Until May 2014, the water was
delivered in water trunks and stored in large water
drums outside. In winter, the water froze requiring the
ice to be broken up and melted to use. Previously, much
time was wasted waiting for the water trucks. The
provision of water connections directly to the
kindergarten has greatly enhanced the kindergarten facilities and has been more cost efficient
than water supplied by water trucks.

Economic empowerment for ger area women

The GAP of the project provided for equal work opportunities for women, leading to 86 persons
(of whom 45% are women) obtaining employment at water kiosks, water reservoirs, pumping
stations and sewage treatment plants overall. More specifically, 39 women in total have been
employed as water kiosk vendors in five project areas, amounting to 49% of total water
vendors, as permanent employees by the Public Utility Service Organization (PUSO). The sound
female employment numbers are partly due to the gender-friendly nature of the jobs, being
both flexible and community- based, and located within short distances of the womens ger
area homes. This latter feature is worth integrating into future projects - developing jobs for
women that are close to their homes.5
Box: Project Filters out 25 Water Jobs for Women in Erdenet Ger area District
In Erdenet ger area districts, 26 new jobs (25 or 96% of them are women) to
operate 26 new water kiosks have been created. Female water vendors earn
between $130150 per month depending on the amount of water dispensed from
the kiosks. The amount they earned is higher than the national minimum wage of
$104 per month. In comparison, Enkhtuvshin, the female head of one of three
household units of the bagh contracted to the soum governor earns $60 per
month. The women water kiosk vendors lived in the ger areas and were happy to
obtain jobs near their homes. Three female vendors interviewed were pleased
with the kiosk work conditions as the new and refurbished kiosks were clean,
comfortable and, most importantly, all had modern wood heaters installed by the
project. The female water vendors had to have completed secondary school and
undergo special training in finance, kiosk management, health and hygiene,
equipment care, occupational health and safety, etc., to obtain these positions
and to be hired by the local Erdenet PUSO, as contracted workers.

New road leads to building of new ger area school and easy secure access for women
Thanks to a new ger area access road between her home in the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, and
the new local school, Oyunkhushing saves herself a precious few hours every day, as do
hundreds of other female ger area residents. The school trips now take her ten minutes to
walk. Oyunkhushing, interviewed while collecting her daughter from the ger area school, said
The new road has made my life so much easier. Previously, I had to take both my
daughters (one in kindergarten and one in primary school) to school in downtown
Ulaanbaatar. I have no car, so I had to either walk with them all the way to the junction
on the difficult dusty dirt road, or get an expensive micro-bus to the main junction, and
then another public transport bus to the school twice or thrice a day. Now, I just walk to

Bagh and soum are both administrative terms - bagh is similar to a neighborhood, soum is a rural area
administrative unit.

and from the new school on a decent easy road. Because of the new road that allows
easy access to this outer ger area, the residential area has expanded for the last few
years so that a new school was needed. They built the local school because of the good
The new school and kindergarten have been established close to the ger area households at the
end of 2012, as a result of the ADB funded new access road. The investment in the road
became a catalyst for the building of the government-funded school. Two female teachers,
Enkhtsetseg and Ariunaa, said that the number of students has grown rapidly from 600 to 1,050
(60% girls), between 2013 and 2014, the school having been established after the project road
was completed in 2012. Previously, ger area children had to go to kindergarten and school in
the downtown area. Now, there is a school right in the middle of their ger area, they pointed
In Orbit Takhilt, Baruun Salaa and Khailaast ger areas in Ulaanbaatar, three access roads (total
of 12.3 km) have been built by the project with dedicated bus stations, street lighting and safe
pedestrian paths on both sides of the project roads. Previously, in Orbit Takhilt, with a
population of 27,144 (7,540 households), the access road to the ger area was a dusty dirt road
with no dedicated lit walking paths, from the main road to the ger residences. Public transport
consequently terminated at the main junction where the main road ended.
Several women said that previously, to access their residences required either walking down
the unsafe and unlit road, or taking expensive micro-buses from the junction. Now the much
cheaper public transport buses, provided by the municipality go all the way down to the end of
the road, to the cul de sac, where the last ger area residences are located. As a result, women
and children are able to walk to and from the nearby new kindergarten, new school and family
clinics, and to the main junction for the markets and other facilities. Female residents also
reported feeling more secure as a result of the well-lit, dedicated walking paths.
A remaining feature of the project gender action plan, shortly to be implemented, is the
microfinance component which will allow 1000 women from 1000 ger area households to
improve their on-plot facilities, including direct water connections. This activity also focuses on
encouraging female-headed and low-income households to apply for the small loans. To help
ensure womens voice and legal representation, the GAP includes a gender target - at least 30%
of loan and legal documents will need to contain womens names as owners or co-owners.
Wendy Walker, Principal Social Development Specialist, EARD, ADB, remarked that, The
approach taken in the UDSP is not a one-off effort. This project represents one of the first
concerted efforts at gender mainstreaming with a gender action plan, by ADB in Mongolia.
Subsequent ADB urban projects focused on ger area development have built on the experience
of the UDSP, and include GAPs which seek to positively strengthen the project impact on urban
ger area populations, particularly for women.

The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian
Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy
of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this
paper do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's