Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that government ministries and institutions should start awarding more senior positions to women, and that political parties should put female commune-election candidates forward for higher positions.
Speaking at a ceremony for International Women’s Day at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theater, Hun Sen also urged women voters to back female political candidates.
Male candidates overwhelmingly win elections because women do not vote for each other, Hun Sen said.
“Women must also support women…. That’s the point we should consider,” he said.
If a woman and a man are equally qualified for the same position, voters and officials should choose the woman, he said.
“The election body should give opportunities to women…. We should list women candidates at the top of election lists,” he added.
Hun Sen also said that senior ministers should begin appointing women as department directors and deputy directors, pointing out that even the Ministry of Women’s Affairs recently appointed two men as department directors.
According to the National Election Committee, 21 percent of this year’s 102,266 commune candidates are women, up from 16 percent in 2002.
But many of the female candidates have been ranked low on party nomination lists, which reduces their chances of election, said Jerome Cheung, country director for the National Democratic Institute.
SRP secretary-general Mu Sochua said that she welcomes Hun Sen’s call for more women at higher levels of government, but questioned how the change would take place. “How do you get rid of the men who are already there?” she asked, adding that the SRP has 96 women running for commune chief positions in April’s election.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that female candidacy has increased because women have become more self-confident.
The CPP has 70 women running for commune chief posts, he said.