Call for More Women Representatives in Sub-National Politics

As Cambodia nears its second district and municipal council elections in May, about 200 women councilors from the sub-national level attended a workshop Friday to call for political parties to increase the number of women candidates in the upcoming election.

Currently, 12 percent of councilors at the sub-national level are women, and some provinces have no female representation at all, said Thida Khus, executive director of local NGO Silaka, which co-hosted the workshop along with the Sub-Committee on Capacity Development to Promote Women in Politics.

At the provincial level, only 37 of 374 councilor positions are held by women, and at the district level, just 360 of the 2,880 councilors are women, Ms. Khus said, adding that of the country’s 16,000 commune councilors, 18 percent are female.

“This small amount [of women representatives] has a big impact on the councilors ability to do their work on the women and children’s consultative committee, which covers up to 52 percent of the population,” Ms. Khus said.

Cambodia’s first elections for district and municipal councilors, during which only commune councilors can vote, was in 2009 and the second election will take place on May 18. The campaign period will be held from May 2 to 16.

Ms. Khus said that the workshop was organized “to advocate for political parties to increase the number of women in the 2014 district and municipal council election,” and to “reform national and political policies to prepare to put women as priority candidates on the election list in 2014.”

Though some women have been elected to positions at the sub-national level, they only play a minimal role in the decision-making process, said Chan Sophoan, program coordinator for Silaka’s women in politics campaign.

“Women still hold limited representation in decision-making processes at the sub-national level because they only make up 10 percent of representatives,” she said.                         “Women’s and children’s issues related to all types of violence, girls dropping out of school, migration and women’s welfare are increasing, so promoting women’s roles in politics and decision-making are very important.”

One attendee, Leng Lakhena, a district councilor for the ruling CPP in Prey Veng province’s Ba Phnom district, applauded the plan to put an equal number of men and women into councilor positions.

“Women need to build capacity and should be flexible and smart at communicating with their male counterparts at the sub-national level to make sure women are receiving help,” she said.

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