«When I finished my university studies in accountancy, I could never have imagined that one day I would work in the field of mining», says Oidov Tsetsegmaa. The forty-year-old’s income from her work for the Umbrella Federation of Artisanal Miners is enough to pay school and university tuition for her three children.
Having met her husband while they were unemployed, Oidov Tsetsegmaa began her career in 2007. One year later she launched an appeal for miners to organise to defend their rights and interests: «The miners have often been victims of discrimination as a result of the lack of a legal framework to cover them», she explains. «In 2008 I had the opportunity to attend a meeting jointly organised by the Mongolian mining authorities and officials of the SDC’s Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project (SAM). It got me extremely motivated to get involved, and I immediately called on the miners to come together using local television. We succeeded in gathering about 150 people.»
A voice for the miners
To manage problems of access to mining territories and bring their activities up out of the informal sector, the miners founded an NGO which rapidly evolved into a coordinating organisation that now numbers 500 members. «After over 20 years of indifference, for the first time the miners got a sense that their opinion was being taken into account, that they were being treated as citizens», recalls the initiator.
«Since our NGO was established we’ve worked closely with the SDC’s SAM project. We took part in training and workshops. Through our political engagement, discussions of legal arrangements, televised debates, press conferences and national forums, we have been able to share our experiences and information with other NGOs dealing with the same issues», says Tsetsegmaa.