A ger is a traditional Mongolian portable tent that is still used today as a dwelling place for families. The unofficial ger district just outside of Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, has expanded significantly over the last year as many families have left the countryside in search of jobs. These families have experienced the destruction of their livestock due to bitter cold temperatures and suffered from a lack of adequate schools, and they migrated to the ger district on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar in search of better opportunities. However, the ger district lacks essential social services and government welfare services. Typically, there is no running water or flushing toilets, and many residents don’t have electricity.
When families leave the countryside to settle in the ger district, the parents are unable to acquire the necessary government-issued identification cards for themselves and their children. This means that the children are unable to attend school and the parents are unable to secure jobs. Children and Young People’s Protection and Development NGO (CYPPD), a Global Fund for Children grantee partner, helps the children acquire the essential government-issued documentation, a time-consuming process that is also necessary for the children and their families to receive health insurance. Since children who lack documentation are unable to attend local schools, their parents expect them to work. The easiest jobs for the children to get are selling candy, tobacco, or plastic bags, or carrying loads at the market. With these petty jobs, the children receive little pay and are often exposed to dangerous situations, with many working in meat markets, wood markets, or car markets. During my visit, Anya Manga, the project manager of CYPPD, said that the hardships of life in the ger district cause men to start drinking and inflicting abuse upon their families. This is the life of a child served by CYPPD.
The children of CYPPD see participation in the Adobe Youth Voices program as an opportunity to offer to the world their perspectives about their communities. The Adobe Youth Voices program, which CYPPD has access to through The Global Fund for Children, teaches youth how to use media to explore and share their views. With their media projects, some of CYPPD’s youth plan to address the lack of playgrounds in the ger district. Children are forced to play in the streets, the only “playgrounds” in their communities. There are a variety of other topics that the youth are interested in discussing in their media projects this year, such as hygiene in the ger district and child labor. Last year, the youth in the Adobe Youth Voices program created a film called “Two Different Lives,” which juxtaposed the life of a young person from the ger district working in a market against the life of a more-privileged child not facing the same hardships.
One of the girls served by CYPPD, Michidma, is an especially outstanding student. Her family has been touched by alcoholism, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and poverty, and she has overcome many difficulties. She was working in the market for a time and dropped out of school to help her family. Now, she is in her third year of college and is studying to become a journalist. “Michidma understands media very well,” Anya told me. She knows the vulnerable side of the young people she interacts with at CYPPD because she herself comes from a disadvantaged background. According to Anya, Michidma is a very sensitive girl who likes art, poetry, dance, and singing. She’s very involved in the Adobe Youth Voices program and has developed her journalism skills, learning to interview people and writing stories quite well. She is becoming a volunteer for CYPPD’s annual summer camp and is learning English. “Michidma is becoming a true leader within our organization,” said Battuya Tsanlig, executive director of CYPPD.
Through the Adobe Youth Voices program, Anya is giving CYPPD youth the opportunity to participate on a level playing field with more-privileged children. She wants the ger district’s children to have the same knowledge and skills as other children, and she encourages them to take part in the Adobe Youth Voices program. “I really want our children to represent Mongolia and demonstrate what we can do,” says Anya.
Monica Grover joined The Global Fund for Children after working as the Content Editor for DigitalSports DC, a community based web portal dedicated to highlighting the accomplishments of DC public high school student-athletes. In addition, Grover’s previous experience involved work in communications for the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation, where she successfully launched a support network for patients in India seeking improved treatment and healthcare options for bone marrow disease.