A herder trainer and advocate for social insurance
Gombosuren Tsend-Ayush is a herder in Ikh -Uul soum (lower administrative unit), Zavkhan province, Mongolia. After finishing high school in 1988 and completing military service for two years, Gombosuren became a herder. Not only being a herder, but Gombosuren is also a talented carpenter and crafts traditional Mongolian boots. He is an active member of his community who has been leading the primary level of a pasture user group (PUG) in his region for the last eight years. Gombosuren has worked closely with herders promoting livestock-related matters such as appropriate pasture usage through his commitment to the PUG.
In September 2020, Gombosuren attended a training of trainer in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, as part of the ILO-led UN Joint Programme “Extending Social Protection to Herders with Enhanced Shock Responsiveness.” The purpose of the training was to prepare local trainers and advocates for social insurance for herders in Zavkhan province and support them in reaching herders in their campsites. During the training, more than 30 participants, including herders, social insurance officers, lifelong education trainers, and cooperative representatives from the province, were equipped with knowledge about voluntary social insurance for herders and the necessary skills to communicate their knowledge with herders. The participants were divided into teams and reached out to herders to educate them on the importance of social insurance.
It was the first time Gombosuren attended a training of trainers on social insurance like most other participants. He said that his knowledge about social insurance was only a basic level before attending the training. “I found the training very useful. Herders like us don’t get to attend training like this very often,” Gombosuren said. Besides learning about social insurance and its benefits, participants expanded their network, which Gombosuren found beneficial. He said, “Not only learning about social insurance, but the participants also had an opportunity to get to know each other and build a network”.
The training helped Gombosuren understand the importance of enrolling in social insurance and raising awareness for peer herders. Also, he deepened his knowledge about herder cooperatives during the training. “A herder who works alone may succeed slowly. Instead, I learned that joining forces together through herder cooperative would be more effective,” Gombosuren said.
Working as a team and using a peer-to-peer approach to increase social insurance coverage of herders
While working in a team with social insurance officer, lifelong education trainer, and cooperative member of his soum and meeting herders, Gombosuren noticed that herders mostly lacked knowledge about social insurance and their understanding of social protection was not solid. “We asked herders’ age and the number of children they have and made individual calculations for their cases to explain social insurance. This helped herders understand the importance of social insurance and encouraged them to enroll in social insurance,” Gombosuren said. “Herders were very receptive to the information we shared”.
Working in a team to reach out to herders was one of the innovative approaches of the UNJP project, which aimed to demonstrate teamwork and a peer-to-peer approach in advocating for social insurance for herders. Like many other participants, Gombosuren found the cooperation very effective and efficient in reaching out to herders. “We were very supportive of each other as we would complement each other while sharing information with herders. Working as a team was a great experience,” he said.
As herders are scattered over large areas of Mongolia, they rarely visit soum and provincial centers to learn about social insurance. Instead, in most cases, they tend to see social insurance officers only a few years before reaching pension age to ask about what they should do. Mainly young families tend to ignore the importance of social insurance and rarely visit social insurance officers. Gombosuren’s team ensured they involved those young families and changed their perception about social insurance during their awareness-raising activities.
As a herder himself, Gombosuren found the peer-to-peer approach effective in raising herders’ awareness of social protection. “Herders know peer herders well, and it was much easier to communicate with herders and understand each other. Herders are more comfortable and open to peer herders,” Gombosuren said about his experience of meeting herders. Television is the primary source of information about social insurance for herders; however, Gombosuren thinks it’s not adequate.
After the whole experience of being trained as a trainer and visiting herder families to advocate for social insurance, Gombosuren’s perception about the benefits of social insurance has become more solid. He said that he realized that how much teamwork and peer-to-peer approach can achieve in educating herders about social protection. “It's important that herders enroll in social insurance and take advantage of it in different situations,” Gombosuren said.