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In the corner “The main character” of the magazine “Mongolian women” we invited Mrs. Oyunchuluun L., the first female operator of a dump truck in Mongolia. This woman is a member of a large family called “Oyu tolgoi” and she continues to contribute to the development of the Mongolian mining sector. Although she got a job as a cleaner, she created a new workplace “female operator” through the strength of will, patience, aspiration and hard work, thus opening the way for many women. The story about how a woman who has never driven a car, became a driver-operator of 330-ton vehicle, is very interesting. We can say that only thanks to her the professional inspection organization concluded that a woman can work as an operator of heavy equipment. Prior to that, women were forbidden to work as a driver for heavy mining equipment. Today, the number of female operators is increasing every day.

A person should not be discouraged by the difficulties encountered at work. If you work with all your heart, then success will certainly come.

Let's get acquainted with the history of the first female operator of Mongolia. 

- You have mastered the profession of heavy equipment operator, which was included in the list of prohibited specialties for women. You are the first female operator of heavy equipment in Mongolia; you laid the cornerstone for changing the lives of many women. Please share us how you became the operator of heavy equipment.

- Since childhood, I have been single-minded and treated every work from the heart. I believe that these qualities of mine and my upbringing helped me choose this profession. The story of how I mastered this profession is continuously connected with my childhood. I was born in Dalanzadgad soum of the South Gobi aimag as the second child and the eldest daughter in the family. Like other children, I went to kindergarten and attended high school in the South Gobi aimag. In 1994 I graduated from high school and entered the Mongolian State University. So, I first came to the city of Ulaanbaatar. When I came to register at the university, I was told: “By mistake, the South Gobi aimag was given an extra quota. But, once you came, then we had a new specialty for the study of religion, go there”. Thus, I studied Tibetan for two years. (laughs) A study that does not cause interest, gives in with difficulty. Therefore, after two years of study, I left the university and was engaged in various works, helping my brother in trade.

We had a small tape recorder, and I often listened to FM radio. In the summer of 2004, they announced on the radio: “Recruiting staff for the position of a cleaner at Oyu Tolgoi. The registration is held in the building of FM radio”. I said to my sister: “Maybe I should go register”. She replied: "Try for sure". When I came to register, there was a queue. People in the queue were asked if they could sew, clean, wash. I was the eldest daughter in the family, so with confidence I said “I can”. When the interview was over, they told us that they would call who passed the interview. At that time I did not have a mobile phone. My mother and I sat at home by the phone and waited for the call. Almost two months later, the phone rang and they said: “We are calling from Ivanhoe Mines. You have been interviewed. We will call again”. And again I began to sit and wait for the call. Again two months have passed. When I went to the border and drove nearby the Oyu tolgoi mine, I said: “This is the Oyu tolgoi mine. Those who work here receive a high salary. If you go to work here, then the path to happiness will open”. I believe that those who work here should consider themselves happy and should do their work in good faith, from the heart. I got a job as a cleaner and received a salary of 150,000 MNT per month. For me, who lived in the aimag, this salary was quite enough. The company provided accommodation and meals, so the salary was spent on personal expenses. Exactly one year I worked as a cleaner in Oyu tolgoi. Performed my work in good faith. This quality is inherent in me since childhood. Regardless of whether my work is monitored or not, I do the work from the heart. And others notice it.

Now I will talk about how I became an operator. After dinner, we always cleaned around the camp. There was an uncle Larry, who was very kind to Mongolians. Uncle Larry every day went by his Land Cruiser SUV and was driving trash. At the same time, his translator was sitting in the front seat and two cleaners in the back. One day in 2005, Narantsetseg and I went to clean around the camp. At that time, only the foundation of the Oyu Tolgoi building was being built, and there was a lot of heavy equipment of yellow color, which was engaged in various works. Once upon a time, looking at them, uncle Larry asked us: “Do you want to drive a mining dump truck? In Canada, Australia and the US mainly women drive the dump trucks. Work has a shift”. The two of us immediately agreed and said: "Yes, we want". In the evening we stood in the laundry room to distribute the washed clothes, and then the senior cleaning lady came and asked: "Ochko and Naraa, what did you say to uncle Larry that you want to become an operator?" We replied: "Yes. And what happened?" She replied: "He said to appoint you immediately as operators". We got lucky. Every day, different girls cleaned up the camp. And that day, it was our turn and we went with uncle Larry.

The next day we came to uncle Larry, and he said: "You were immediately appointed as operators. You will no longer work as cleaners. Go to Mick of heavy equipment department". It happened the next day. At that time, I didn't even have a driver's license. But another girl said: "Probably, we will be trained. Maybe, they will not issue a salary. I will not". And I did not refuse, I decided to try. And I was left alone. And then the translator said: "If they told me to train two girls, it would be good if we trained another one. She will no longer work as a cleaner, and the salary will also increase". I asked the roommate: "Naraa refused. Do you want to drive a mining truck?" And she immediately agreed. The next day we put on a protective vest and a helmet, and we got into the cabin of a 60-ton vehicle called “769” (at that time it was the largest vehicle in the Oyu tolgoi). We sat down one by one. The work schedule of the mine was different at that time. The locals worked for 90 days and rested for 14 days. The two of us practiced for three months and in winter we received the right to drive by ourselves. During the holidays I managed to finish the course on driving and received a certificate.

- You said that you got the right to drive independently after three months of practice. Please share with us how was your first working day? Have you experienced fear?

- It was wonderful. In the winter morning, the equipment did not start. The technique was outdated. I sat in a cold cabin and tried to start. If it did not work, then called the repair department. I worked in the cold and in the heat.

- Deciding to drive heavy machinery, even without the experience of driving a car, is a sign of tremendous courage ...

- Yes, of course (laughs). After getting a driving license, I started driving a lot. I worked hard.

- If we assume that you started working since 2004, then you have devoted 15 years of your life to this company.

- Yes. But in the middle, I lost a few years. In 2006, an inspection commission arrived. This commission accepted the conclusion: “There is no change in the legislation of Mongolia. The list of prohibited occupations for women includes the operator of heavy machinery. You two cannot drive a mining truck”. Thus, almost a year I did not drive a mining truck. I sat in the office and entered the data into the system. After we received the right to drive a mining truck, inspector Uranchimeg came to us. She took various measurements, traveled with us in the cab of a mining truck, asked us to draw some objects after driving. She worked with us for almost two months. As well as the inspection body concluded that there are no side effects for women while driving a dump truck. But to amend the legislation takes time.

In 2008, the company carried out job cuts due to changes in the Oyu Tolgoi investment contract. They asked who wants to quit on their own. I was pregnant, so I decided to quit. After the birth of a son in 2010, I came back to work. I decided to get a job through the intermediary company Camel, but again I was not hired. The law that prohibited women from driving heavy machinery was still in force. And I was advised to deal with this issue in the ministry. To get a job I went to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the Inspection Organization. The specialist of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection on the conclusions of the workplace gave me a letter that the conclusion of the inspection body indicated that driving a dump truck for women do not have a harmful effect and that the relevant company has the right to decide the recruitment of women to the appropriate position. After many months of hard work, I received this confirmation letter. I believe that this letter opened the way for many women to drive a mining truck. In 2011, an open mine was put into operation, and I got the first operator of a mining dump truck. From that moment until today I work in an open mine.

- You said that you worked even when you were pregnant. Have you encountered any difficulties?

- When I was pregnant, I worked in an office. But now we have a lot of pregnant girls. They work for 8 hours. They are not assigned to night shifts. As I know, girls who drove a mining truck did not experience difficulties during childbirth. Of course, noisy in the cabin, but the rest is normal.

- Almost every day there are positive and negative news related to the investment contract of the company Oyu Tolgoi. As a person who works in this company, are you worried?

- Hard question. I never thought. Of course, there are problems in a person’s life, and we cannot foresee what will happen to us, the company, and then the country. You need to be mentally prepared for all changes. And in life you need to be ready for any changes, you need to think about what will I do if I quit my job. There are people who started their business. But there is a saying: "God rewards good people". Oyu Tolgoi began sending its workers to Australia and the United States. Those who move to work there are paid according to the system of the respective countries. First of all, they sent electrical engineers, mechanics, managers. I hope soon will start sending operators.

- What are the benefits of your work?

- Most people have a negative notion about the company Oyu Tolgoi because it exports the wealth of Mongolia. Of course, there is a bad and good side. There is a lot to learn. When I arrived, I heard good news on the plane. In the Oyu Tolgoi mine there have been found 20-30 thousand rare plant species of Mongolia. To save them, transplant these plants from the mine to a safe place. The whole crew is working there. Residents of Khanbogd soum eat fresh vegetables every day. They were taught to grow vegetables and built greenhouses. Regarding safe labor, there is a lot to learn from foreigners. If you are not self-confident, feel fear when doing the relevant work, then you can safely say about it. Clearly, follow the rules of safe and reliable work. There is no pressure in the workplace. Do not require to comply with the norm and standard work. It provides food, work clothes, shelter. You must do your job safely within 12 hours. There is a fitness club, provided conditions for yoga and the conditions for healthy eating. First of all, the rights, health, and safety of workers are put. Recruit to work, regardless of kinship, appearance, and level of education. We work with women with higher education and women shepherds. If you successfully carry out your work, then all the conditions for career growth are provided. In general, women start their careers with cleaners and men - with a stoker. A man, only by working hard, will be able to live well. If you sit with folded hands, you will not be able to secure a prosperous life. The vocational training center of our South Gobi aimag has been greatly transformed. Our company provides vocational training centers with the latest equipment and technology.

- Let's continue our conversation about your personal life. Please share your memories of childhood, about parents.

- My father was engaged in construction of wells, carried out responsible work. In the summer he went to work in the provinces and in the winter he stayed at home. In his youth, he was strong, had the title of the elephant of the national wrestling. People treated him with alcohol, he drank a lot. But he was able to give up alcohol because of his diligence. Our childhood passed happily away from alcohol. When the country switched to a market economy, the privatization of state-owned enterprises began, the water industry was closed, and my father was left without work. My mother worked to raise her five children. My mother worked as a primary school teacher. I am the eldest in the family, so I tried to help my mother. When I was in school, we constantly ran out of coal. My brothers and I went for coal, we were carrying coal in a wheelbarrow. The road passed right in front of the school, and I put on a mask and drove coal without embarrassment. There was a shortage of rice. We cooked camel bones in tea. We collected metal, sold it and got money for it.

- As a child, you were engaged in dancing, studied in the school of dancing and music. Why did you leave dancing?

- Yes. Probably no one will believe that I danced. Our colleagues say: "Aunt Ochko, you were a ballerina" (laughs). Then, from the provincial schools at the end of the fifth grade, students were enrolled in a school of dancing and music. Four children were taken from our province and sent to study in the city. They took an auditory exam, a movement coordination exam, an exam in Mongolian and math. One morning I had a bone. And because of the health left school. I came back to the province and finished school there. Sometimes I think that if I became a ballerina, I would certainly succeed.

- Do you have time to pay attention to the education of your sons?

- My husband also works as an operator in the Oyu Tolgoi company. We work in one shift. My husband's name is Tserendorj. He hails from the province of Uvs. Since 2005 I have been working together with men. If there was another person, he would be jealous. My husband is a very good person, I am grateful that I met him. Our eldest son is 22 years old. He works as a photographer in the studio “March Nine”. My mother raised our eldest son, he does not drink alcohol or smoke. And the youngest son is 11 years old. He studies well, loves to play basketball and is taller than me. My mother-in-law takes care of our sons when we are at work. I always openly talk with sons. We communicate openly at home. I say to the eldest son: "My son, do not rush to get married. Being veiled is not the main thing. You need to choose a woman who will prepare food when you are tired". I believe that today there has been an increase in the number of people who live in an easy way, who are deceiving others with their appearance. And I also constantly tell my eldest son that he should become an example for his younger brother, he should fulfill the role of elder brother well. Sometimes he leads his younger brother to various circles and sections. Our sons at the weekend play basketball with my husband's brothers. Surrounding people have a great influence on the upbringing of children.

- What is the difference between women working in a mine and other women? What are their features?

- Our girls are more enduring. As well as neat, responsible and courageous. In this way, will be able to ensure safe operation.

- What difficulties do you encounter? What questions would you like to draw the attention of the state and the attention of the Mongolian Women's Federation?

- A very good question. We want, because of abnormal working conditions, to lower our age for retirement. Women miners have few children. Therefore, on average, they retire upon reaching 50 years of age. I heard that, according to abnormal working conditions, 13.5 years is 15 years of work under normal conditions. I believe that it is not necessary to wait for the achievement of 50 years if the years worked out have reached the indicated years.

- Please, share your unforgettable memories associated with a woman.

- Mom, of course, is always in the soul of every person. I am always grateful to the girl-translator Avirmed, with whom I work together, and always proud of her. Never once did I tell her directly, but in my heart I am always grateful to her. When I tried to get back to work, she helped me a lot. Not only me, she helped many people who wanted to get back to work. And also I love my mom's brothers and sisters, thankful to them. My mom has 13 brothers and sisters. She died because of liver cancer. I worked to earn money for her treatment, so I could not take care of her. And her sisters cared for her constantly. And now they, too, care about me, constantly keep in touch. And also I am very grateful to my mother-in-law Dulamjav. For us, who work at the mine for many days, the most important thing is reliable hands that care for our children. Although she is over 70 years old, she is responsible for all household chores, she is a responsible woman.

- Thank you for the interview. I wish you success in your life and work.

- Thank you for the invitation and the interview.

Journalist Bulganchimeg L


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