The Ministry of Women’s Affairs on Dec 19 officially unveiled the 2008 Cambodian Gender Assessment study, “A Fair Share for Women,” by calling for gender equality on all levels and emphasizing the need for more women in the government’s legislative and judicial branches.
According to the report, Cambodian men have a greater say in decision making, particularly when it comes to more valuable assets such as land, but fewer women now believe that only men should make important decisions.
“Representatives of women in the executive branch of government remains low, particularly in senior decision-making positions at the national levels and in provincial and district administration,” the report states.
“There are also few women represented in the judicial branch—such as judges, prosecutors or lawyers,” it adds.
Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs, said that the first edition of Cambodia Gender Assessment was compiled in 2004, and this second edition will help government officials track trends and changes in gender equality over time.
Gender equality is a human right promised by Cambodia’s Constitution, which specifically prohibits discrimination against women, the minister said. “Thus if women are disadvantaged in health, education, employment, government decision-making and in personal relations with men, this is a violation of their basic human rights,” she said.
“And everyone benefits from gender equality, not just women themselves,” she added.
Also speaking at the launch of the report, CPP Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An said too many women drop out of school, and as a result, fewer women than men pursue higher education.
“There is also a big gap in the wages between men and women,” she said, noting the low number of women participating in politics. Men Sam An was recently promoted to the rank of Four Star General in the country’s armed forces.
According to “A Fair Share for Women,” 40 percent of Cambodian women between the age of 25 and 44 years are illiterate, compared to 22 percent of men in the same age bracket.
Also, 35 percent of women aged 25 to 44 years and 33 percent of women between 15 and 24 years have less than a primary school education.
Child mortality, the report notes, has declined for children under 5 years old, but newborn infants delivered at health facilities remains low, at only 22 percent. As a result, maternal mortality in Cambodia remains “unacceptably high” at 472 deaths per 100,000 live births, and this rate has not improved since 2000, the report states.
Alice Levisay, of the UN Population Fund, said that gender equality is not only a human right, but it also supports effective and sustainable development.
“Gender equality can not be achieved by women-specific institutions, or women-specific projects alone,” she said. “Gender equality has to be mainstreamed all levels of government and all sectors if it is going to be effective.”