We have been helping the National Center Against Violence (NCAV), a wonderful NGO, and the first women’s and children’s shelter in Mongolia. They are in dire need of public funding, since the Mongolian government and businesses, contribute very little to help NGOs. Courtney wrote the following article for the UB Post, which agreed to publish excerpts of it, for their Friday, October 1, 2010 edition. Here is the interview in its entirety. Please click on NCAV’s link provided if you are compelled to donate to this wonderful NGO.
NCAV and a Safe Future for Mongolia
Interview & Photography by Courtney Niday-Nyan
The National Center Against Violence (NCAV) is a non-profit, non-partisan, and non-governmental organization, established in 1995, with the goal of combating domestic and sexual violence against women and children in Mongolia. The NCAV is one of the first independent citizens’ organizations established after the transition of Mongolia to a democratic market-based political system. Prior to the NCAV’s formation, victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse had no place to go for help and refuge. The male-dominated Mongolian Parliament was of no help in championing issues of domestic violence, so for its initial funding, a proposal was submitted to an Australian governmental program, AusAID. AusAID responded with a letter to the Mongolian Government confirming a need for a shelter-house and problems of domestic violence in their society, to which the Mongolian Government replied in the negative stating, such problems did not exist in Mongolia, and that NCAV was copying social issues from abroad, to get funding. Despite the lack of support from the government, AusAID came through, and endowed the NCAV with their very first grant, which they used to establish the first shelter-house for women and children in Mongolia. NCAV welcomed its first client, within a month of opening the shelter-house, despite the lack of acknowledgement by the Mongolian government. It has been an uphill struggle, but since then, the NCAV’s shelter-houses have been filled to capacity, providing much needed care to the victims of domestic violence, and sexual abuse in Mongolian society. The following interview was conducted by Courtney Niday-Nyan, with one of NCAV’s representatives, who wish to remain anonymous, due to continual threats against the organization, from alleged perpetrators.
Niday-Nyan: Are the women coming to the shelter house locals or are they from the countryside?
NCAV: In the beginning, there was only one shelter nationwide in UB, and there were no other shelters provided by the government. At present there are still no shelters from the government, only from NGOs. Women walked from the countryside, since they didn’t have money for transportation, just to escape from perpetrators. Because of this we established other local branches around Mongolia beginning in 2000. We now are running six shelter-houses nationwide: two in UB, one for teenagers, and one for women with young children. Mongolia has a small population so it’s easy to know the location of the shelters. Therefore if victims are in danger of being found by the perpetrators, they are moved to another shelter house in another city for safer haven.
Niday-Nyan: What ages are most of your clients?
NCAV: Our clients are all ages from various social backgrounds. 70% of our clients are children, because when a woman comes, they bring 2 or 3 children along with them. One of our youngest victims was a five year old girl that was raped, and sustained other serious injuries, from the attack. In such cases, the victims are first placed at the shelter to ensure safety, then provided with health services, and therapy to rehabilitate psychological issues. We employ a multidisciplinary team of doctors, police, social workers, lawyers, and judges to protect victims, provide social work, and prevent further domestic violence. Sometimes teenagers come based on referrals from teachers, social workers, our partner organization working on child issues, and also the police when the children call them. The police have no safe space for them so they refer them to us.
Niday-Nyan: Where do the school aged children at your shelters go to school?
NCAV: That is an important issue for us. We tried to make arrangements with a school, but in the Mongolia School System children have to attend school near their house, in their own city district, where they are registered. That’s a problem for us because most teenagers go to their old school by themselves. When this happens we really worry about their safety. We contact their teachers by phone asking when they arrived at school, when they left, and telling them when they safely returned to us. Most perpetrators wait for them around their school, so they can kidnap them. At present, we really need to find a small bus to transport our kids to school. When students need to go to school, to the hospital, or give testimony at the police station, we currently don’t have a safe bus to transport them. It’s very difficult in incest cases, because perpetrators want to protect family honor, and they blame the victim for shaming them. This is very dangerous for the children, so some are kept at the shelter house and cannot attend school. We provide educational training at our shelters in these cases. We have Mongolian university students that come and volunteer.
Niday-Nyan: What other programs do you offer to the community?
NCAV: Along with our shelter network, we offer advocacy services to help amend policies and regulations, we sponsor community development programs on anti-violence to help shape the social mindset, beliefs and values, so that violence is no longer tolerated. We have 18 local activists who work part time for us, to do campaigns, and community workshops, we distribute brochures and news letters, to bring awareness and educate the population.
Niday-Nyan: Have you seen a change in people’s attitude toward domestic violence since your inception?
NCAV: Yes, in the beginning people were so negative thinking it was their own private issue. The Domestic Violence Law was adopted in 2005, and since then, we have struggled to change the work of law enforcement. Due to a lack of systematic training and programs on proper application of the domestic violence legislation, officers from law enforcement organizations have poor awareness of the law. For instance, a police officer has a right to file a request for a restraining order, on behalf of a domestic violence victim, after completing a situation analysis and evaluation of potential risks and threat level, with the assistance of a social worker. However, to date, there have only been a handful of cases in which a police officer filed for a restraining order. Even if a restraining order is issued, there is no enforcement of that order. It is just a piece of paper. Also, no situation analysis and evaluation has been completed by a social worker. However we have noticed some important social changes. We are receiving calls from neighbors reporting domestic violence, teachers reporting students with bad bruises, or healthcare workers actually walking with a victim to the shelter-house, to say they were victims of sexual abuse. The social consciousness is increasing.
Niday-Nyan: How can our readers help? What do you need?
NCAV: In Mongolia, we don’t have such a system as in America or Europe, where the government provides big grants for shelters and NGOs. So running a shelter house is like running a big family, where everyday needs have to be covered. We try to find financial support from international governments, which has been our biggest resource. Recently, however, the focus is changing for these governments from the family sector, to such things as world disaster relief efforts. The international image of Mongolia is that of a more developed democracy, but in reality it’s not very much like this. So to have sustainable finances for us is very challenging. We try to raise funds from annual concerts we organize for the community, where ticket sales help to pay for the shelter’s food. Peacecorp volunteers contributes their skill and knowledge. Philanthropy and donation issues are not developed much in Mongolia, but also the tax system isn’t very comprehensive. In the U.S. when a company contributes to an NGO they get a tax deduction, but this system doesn’t exist in Mongolia. So people don’t want to contribute much. Every year we are asking international companies or embassies for some support.
Niday-Nyan: Do you ever have donations of clothing or food coming to the center?
NCAV: We don’t have sustainable donations. Some Mongolians give a few clothes or kitchen supplies but it’s not sustainable. Every year we try to change our strategy to find help. This year we want to ask big companies to place a donation box in a public area.
Niday-Nyan: What is happening in October with the Reform of the Family Law?
NCAV: Working with abused children in our child protection program we found the need to prohibit corporal punishment in the family. We are doing research with our legal interns to draft recommendations for the amendment to family law. We are going to run some lobbying advocacy campaign with other NGOs. Traditional Mongolians believe beating children makes them better people and it educates them. So changing this law is not so easy its just a first step to change attitudes.
The workers at the NCAV have a deep dedication to help the survivors of violence and abuse even in the face of discouragement, violent threats, and little funding. They are struggling to build a safer future for all the mothers, wives, and sisters of Mongolia. Being a young democracy, Mongolia has the opportunity and responsibility to set the standard for the direction of its evolution. If you have money, investigate, and share a small bit to groups your heart is drawn to, if you have no money, share of your time, skills and knowledge. Donate the clothes your babies have outgrown, or those you no longer wear. It could mean the world to someone who feels the world is against them.
Please find out more information on the NCAV, anti violence issues and how to help at: www.safefuture.mn If you have questions or would like to help please contact them at: 50 99 05 05