As part of a series on the Leaders Advancing Democracy Mongolia (LEAD Mongolia) program, World Learning sat down with program participants to learn more about who they are, what they learned from LEAD Mongolia and how they plan to use their experience back home.
LEAD Mongolia is a two year initiative run by World Learning with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to bring together aspiring leaders from Mongolia to the United States to learn about democracy, and how they can work together to tackle Mongolia’s most pressing issues, including corruption, poverty, discrimination, urbanization and the environment.
The fatal riots in Ulaanbaatar in 2008, in which five people were killed and over 300 injured, were a wake-up call for Mongolians to educate citizens about how to engage peacefully in civil society.
Sparked by allegations of voter fraud, the riots, according to The Guardian, were among of the worst on record, resulting in a four day state of emergency issued by the government. It was a setback in what had been a smooth democratic transition for Mongolia, a place that some Mongolian educators and leaders call the only democracy between the Sea of Japan and Eastern Europe.
Among Mongolia’s next generation of pro-democracy leaders is Bolorsaikhan Badamsambu, who works with Mongolia’s youth on civic education. Badamsambu is the vice coordinator of the “All for Education!” campaign, which is part of the National Civil Society Coalition of Mongolia. The global campaign works to influence civil society participation, implement non-discriminatory services and advocate for education across all sectors of society.
Badamsambu says discrimination and marginalization are rampant, which discourages many from becoming politically active. “After the parliamentary election in 2008, many Mongolian youth expressed their opinion, but in a violent way,” he recalls. “That alone already shows that we need to work and empower youth before they turn to violence. Youth engagement is really low because of the lack of quality education, including civic education. In addition, Mongolian youth are always marginalized and discriminated [against] because of their age or their experience or even their gender.”
He says to overcome this situation, youth need to be more aware that they have the power to make a positive change, and can do so in a peaceful way. While on World Learning’s LEAD exchange program in the U.S., Badamsambu says he was impressed at the level of inclusivity across both public and private sectors. “Whether we are working in the private sector or civil society, we are contributing to a much more democratic and open, free civil society within our country. So from this trip, I realized that every person needs to contribute to the wellbeing of people in this country.”
Badamsambu intends to implement a project that focuses on increasing civic engagement by educating students and their parents. He says he would like to work on providing information that will help the public make informed decisions about local and national politics.