Women’s rights group SILAKA yesterday said progress has been slow to promote more women into decision-making positions within the government.
In a discussion organised by Khmer Times and titled “Role of Women in Politics”, SILAKA executive director Thida Khus said women remain under-represented in parliament and most have been removed from decision-making positions at both national and local levels.
Ms Khus said political parties claim to support women, but often overlook them for positions.
She said women candidates are often placed lower on party lists and hold only a limited number of leadership and decision-making positions.
“It’s become a habit. Men are likely to listen to each other. It happens in both the public and private sectors,” Ms Khus said. “A woman failed to receive recognition although she worked hard to support political parties.”
Ung Chansophea, Civil Society Alliance Forum board member, said most Cambodian families are unlikely to encourage women to participate in politics because of beliefs that women should be housewives.
For this reason, women lack confidence to take on roles in formal political institutions, Ms Chansophea said.
“Sometimes, women don’t even trust themselves – they dare not make decisions,” Ms Chansophea said. “They are hesitant and more reliant on men for decision making.”
Ms Khus said women have certain advantages when it comes to campaigning, organising and leading, but fear would often prevent them from contesting elections and participating in politics.
“This is why women need strong support from society and family members,” she said. “They need a good education in order to participate in politics.”
Gender inequality also remains a crucial issue in Cambodia despite the country’s economic growth and social and political developments, Ms Khus said, noting that women are granted the same political rights as men in the constitution.
“It’s not that women are incompetent, it’s that they do not understand [their rights]. They are shy when asking for the right role,” she said. “Recently, the situation has improved, more women are starting to make demands and express themselves.”
Ms Chansophea said that in some families, women tend to give decision making to men. She said that women should be empowered.
“I think women should not wait for other people to encourage them to get into politics, they should step in and involve themselves,” Ms Chansophea said. “I’m speaking of this because I used to be one of them. But I have changed and I overcame.”
The National Democratic Institute reported in 2017 that only three out of 29 cabinet ministers were women, while only one woman became provincial governor.
The report said women make up only 20 percent of National Assembly members, which is below Cambodia’s Sustainable Development Goals.