#StoryOfResistance - Mongolia: Improving disability-inclusive services for women survivors of violence
In Mongolia, 58 per cent of women and girls have experienced some form of violence – physical, sexual, emotional and economic. Women and girls living with disabilities additionally face specific forms of discrimination and hardship, which limit their opportunities to access education and make decisions about their reproductive and family life. To compound these difficulties, there is a lack of awareness about the rights of people with disabilities, particularly their specific needs, due to limited access to information.
When it comes to violence, some women and girls living with disabilities “do not know their rights are being violated or do not know how to get help,” says Baigalmaa Sodnomdash, Programme Manager at the National Center Against Violence (NCAV), a small women-led organization working to end intimate partner violence and support survivors in Mongolia. She adds that some of the women “lack understanding about marital rape, so they do not know they experienced rape and abuse.” Indeed, in NCAV’s baseline survey (2020), only 30 per cent of domestic and sexual violence cases were reported and investigated, while the remaining majority went unnoticed and unsupported. Due to a culture of fear and silence around violence, and limited information about existing services, women living with disabilities face challenges in accessing specialist support when facing violence.
Providing shelter and services
With the support of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), NCAV’s current project is providing disability-inclusive services to survivors of intimate partner violence.
While Mongolia’s law provides for access to justice and services for women and girls living with disabilities, there is no permanent shelter or support service facility in the country that is equipped with infrastructure accessible or conducive to their needs.
Consequently, the NCAV set up a temporary shelter to provide a wide range of disability-friendly crisis services, including legal assistance; psychological counselling; healthcare; and referral to medical treatment, child protection services and support groups. Among other things, the shelter has:
- video call services based on chatbot to allow deaf women and girls to file police reports;
- trained service providers who understand the special needs of women and girls living with disabilities who are survivors of violence and sexual abuse; and
- information, education and communication materials in Mongolian Braille.
Already, the temporary shelter has housed 18 women and girls with disabilities and provided them with extensive social care services.
Baigalmaa Sodnomdash says: “When we accommodated a woman using a wheelchair at the temporary shelter house, she was so happy and satisfied with the services.” She added that the facility is “so friendly for people with disabilities to access protection services” that as a result, the government has begun to make the state-owned temporary shelters more disability-friendly.
Collaboration to increase impact
The impact of NCAV’s advocacy efforts has been strengthened by collaborating with local non-profit organizations that work with women and girls with disabilities. For example, in partnership with the Center for Independent Living of Deaf Women, the NCAV created and widely distributed information materials and video content on issues related to people with disabilities.
Baigalmaa Sodnomdash shares: “Cooperation [enables us] to identify the specific needs of each disabled [sic] problem, learn how to reach out to these communities and communicate, and create mutual learning.”
#StoryOfResistance is an editorial series during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence 2022 of the UN Trust Fund. The series features the important, lifeline work of women's rights organizations in ending violence against women and girls, in the context of overlapping crises and rising pushbacks from anti-rights and anti-feminist movements.
 Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Progress in Mongolia in Promoting Gender Equality, Raise Questions about the Low Level of Women in Politics and Programmes for Rural Women (24 June 2022).
 Asian Development Bank. Living with Disability in Mongolia: Progress toward Inclusion. December 2019.