During the launch of a five-year plan to promote gender equality in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, senior government officials praised improvements in female representation in government, but conceded that discrimination is still prevalent.
Speaking at the launch of Neary Rattanak IV—a strategic four-year plan to boost gender equality and women’s empowerment—Khim Chamroeun, secretary of state for the Women’s Affairs Ministry, lauded Prime Minister Hun Sen’s efforts to increase the number of women in politics but said there were improvements to be made at the local level.
“But what is the problem? Most women at the sub-national level rise to the challenge, but discrimination against women continues…sometimes it may not be direct but indirect discrimination,” she said.
According to a report distributed along with the strategic plan, Cambodia has witnessed modest improvements in women’s representation in public decision-making and politics, including a rise from 10 percent of municipal and provincial councilors in 2010 to more than 13 percent this year.
Between 2007 and 2013, there was a 5 percent rise in the number of women working in the civil service, bringing female representation to 37 percent last year.
Currently, nine out of 61 Senate seats are occupied by women, while female members account for 25 of the 123 National Assembly seats.
CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, the former minister of women’s affairs, said policy efforts should not focus solely on the number of women in government positions but also on the role they play once in a position of authority.
“In comparison to other countries in Asia we are quite high and I’m not worried about that,” she said.
“But once you have this power, we as women must make it so we use our position to make a difference for the quality of life for women and the human rights of women…. That, we lack,” she added.
“The elected female officials rarely speak, rarely act, on behalf of women. You need a critical voice. When they are politically appointed they follow the party line,” Ms. Sochua said.