“I decided to establish a business to support other herder women who are in a similar vulnerable position. I believe that this business gives women a newfound sense of confidence and dignity.”
Buram lives in Southgobi province in Mongolia with her husband and three children. The family are rural herders who keep camels, goats and sheep, however, with cold winters and dry summers, their remote region in the Gobi Desert is a harsh environment in which to live and farm.
Buram did not have the opportunity to complete higher education herself but as her children are getting older, they hope to go to university one day. The family needs more money to support this but the only money they earn during the meat and wool trading seasons is used to repay loans taken out for the household and school expenses. She says “Before, we could not save money and we were not confident about our future.”
After learning about Development Solutions’ Youth Business Mongolia (YBM) programme, Buram decided to establish a business to support other herder women who are in a similar vulnerable position. After learning to use a sewing machine and improving her sewing skills, she started Gobi Khan Uran LLC in September 2017 with technical and financial assistance from Oyu Tolgoi LLC. Operating in the village of Khanbogd Soum, the business involves producing and selling handmade products.
After the boom in the local mining industry, the number of migrants significantly increased and many women come with their husbands who are hired by the mining companies. However, there is a lack of opportunity for the women to find employment themselves or start a business. Buram believes that her business gives all local women a newfound sense of confidence and dignity by encouraging them to creative initiatives to support community living. She says “Many women ask me to join the business to be a part of the community.”
The business facilitates safe and responsible interventions to avoid inequalities for herder women. Her staff have increased their household income by over USD $11,000 a year and have joined the social security insurance programme. In rural areas, male herders play a decision making role in household and livestock management as well with its economic power. Ensuring gender equality, the business works with to empower women to increase their quality of life at community and household levels.
As sales orders increase, Buram continues to hire more local women who are in the herding business. She now employs 10 women, who in turn are earning additional income for their households. As a result of her mentor’s advice on finance, the company earns a good profit, some of which is shared with the employees to motivate them and recognise their dedication to the business. She explains: “If we can expand the business, we will create 10 new jobs every year and replicate this model in other parts of the province and country.”
Buram says “I believe that more local herder women will join us to increase their economic power and improve the livelihood utilising available resources and skills. The women are learning a new skill and it has created an opportunity for them to strengthen equal decision-making in their families as herding livestock business income is titled under their husbands’ names.”
With the assistance of the YBM programme, the employees are improving their soft skills to communicate with the market players, local authorities and financial institutions. The management team is also studying strategic planning, accounting, human resources and stock management. YBM provided mentors and consultants to advise on financial issues, product development, strategy development and sales forecasts.
Buram’s current buyers are increasing their order volumes and have made advance orders for 2019-2021. New materials and designs are challenging components, so she is working to upgrade them to improve the products. She aims to supply 50% of the schoolchildren in the village with uniforms and expand the production capacity from 4,500 uniforms to 15,000 per year. She will continue to work with mentors, develop an implementation plan, attend capacity building activities and strengthen partnerships with local authorities and business associations.
Buram has this advice for other young entrepreneurs:
"You have to put in the maximum amount of effort and hard work from a young age, then the results will come."
Buram Munkhsuren won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award at YBI's Global Youth Entrepreneurship Summit 2019.