Gunhild meets Oyungerel Tsedevdamba

Making the word “toilet” acceptable in Mongolia

Text and photos: Trude B-J Margel

As a former member of the Mongolian Parliament and the former minister of culture, tourism and sports, Oyungerel is a policy advisor for human rights and public participation to the President of Mongolia, known for her human rights work. 

Oyungerel attended Stanford and Yale Universities and was Stanford's first Mongolian student, enrolling in 2003 at the age 36 in the master’s program in international policy studies. Her work has included helping pass laws addressing domestic violence and protecting cultural heritage sites, home to Mongolian indigenous people, as well as working to stop smugglers from illegally removing dinosaur fossils from Mongolia.

But her work in effecting change in Mongolia is a fascinating story where she has contributed to the taboo word toilet, to be written into and passed in the modern Mongolian laws. Why? Because on the steppes of her country, few people had access to safe sanitation and when they were offered, they refused, as it went contrary to their culture. Working with her people, travelling from village to village to teach and change behavior, has resulted in groundbreaking results and the publication of her book “Let’s Change Toilets” in 2017 in cooperation with the Ulaanbaator based NGO, Local Solutions Foundation has seen significant change in the installation of toilets in the villages and helped reduce diseases.

Oyungerel presents at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing
Oyungerel Tsedevdamba tells her story at The Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing 2018

The book talks about toilet technology, sludge management solutions and innovations, as well as policies and best community practices. The book aims to stop the stigma attached to the word 'toilet'' and popularize the subject with a new business meaning, inspiring local leaders, families and policy makers to invest in safe sanitation. She works closely with Local Solutions Foundation to conduct year-around training on the in all provinces and the capital city of Mongolia.

Group CEO of Cinderella Eco Group, Gunhild Sjøvik had a warm meeting with Oyungerel Tsedevdamba and they shared experiences of sanitation technology for even the most remote areas of the world.

Oyungerel and Gunhild

Read more about Oyungerel Tsedevdamba and her work here: