Gender studies will be incorporated into the curriculum at Cambodia’s largest university in an effort to shape the country’s top students’ views on the role of women in society, educators and experts said on Wednesday at a workshop on the course.
A pilot program will begin at the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s (RUPP) geography department next year, with all first-year students completing a 15-week course that will explore topics including feminism in Asia, gender-based violence and sexuality.
From 2016, aspects of the course will be expanded across other departments, subject to approval by the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia, which assesses public universities’ syllabuses every five years.
Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), said the NGO had spent four years working with RUPP to implement the program.
“Cambodia is a patriarchal society and [there is] real discrimination,” Ms. Sopheap said at Wednesday’s workshop in Phnom Penh.
“Even though our society is now very open compared to 10 years ago, there are many areas where there is still a big gap, [for example] violence against women and domestic violence are still very strong,” she said.
Hay Saing, a lecturer in geography at RUPP, said as many of the university’s graduates become teachers, he hoped they would later educate their own students about equality between the sexes.
Min Seiha, an associate dean at the University of Cambodia, said the university currently offered a single course on gender studies but was considering expanding it into a major.
Several undergraduates at RUPP’s campus, including Sreng Channarath, 19, said they supported the plan.
“[It would help] encourage women to participate in society and be brave and give them a chance to show the men that women are not inferior to them any more.”
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