Gerelee Odonchimed is a Mongolian lawyer and gender equality advocate. Gerelee serves as the vice director of Women for Change, an organization she founded with three other women lawyers in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar that combats domestic violence. About one in five women in Mongolia are victims of sexual assault and one in three women are victims of domestic violence. Odonchimed explains this abuse is often excused as a “regular thing” in Mongolian culture. Gerlee and her organization work to put an end to the victim blaming and shaming that allows sexual harassment and abuse to go on unchallenged.
Odonchimed was raised in Gobi-Altai Province in the southwest region of Mongolia during the early 1990s after the collapse of communism. In this period of massive upheaval many families suffered in the economic and social chaos. Odonchimed recalls that her father, like many of the men in the community, drank and was abusive resulting in her being raised chiefly by her grandmother. Gerelee draws upon her own experience to connect with Mongolian women with similar stories prompting Women for Change to utilize the power of social media to address issues involving sexual abuse, domestic violence, body image and victim blaming.
One particular project launched by Women for Change was called “Behind Closed Doors” which set out to personalize domestic violence by setting up booths where people were isolated and listened to real incidents, including audio of a mother being struck while a child cried in the background . The experience elicited a powerful emotional response from many who were then prompted by the organization to advocate for parliament members to make a full legal framework against domestic violence. As a result of the ongoing efforts of Odonchimed and company, the Mongolian government officially adopted the Law to Combat Domestic Violence in 2016 though Gerlee continues to work to spread information and resources for Mongolian women to help battle the stigma that many victims feel in reporting their experiences.
Illustration by Adam Ames
This portrait of Gerelee Odonchimed is inspired by the paintings of Zayasaikhan Sambuu, a Mongolian painter, who uses combination of traditional Mongolian painting and modern art and illustrates the ancient culture and heritage of Mongolia and Central Asian nomadic peoples. Inspiration was also taken from a painting “Mongolian lamas” by Alexander Yakovlev.
1,566,000 km2 (18th)
Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic