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Doubts over reality of gender report’s ‘gains’

A report released by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs last week shows improvements in gender equality, but some advocates say it veils the actual, bleaker picture for the Kingdom’s women.

The ministry review of the country’s implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a 1995 plan to enhance equality and opportunity for women – notes advances in policies that provide greater access to education, healthcare and other areas.

But weak policy and action by the government has kept women from making the gains the Beijing Declaration intended, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday.

“I think there is a general awareness of the concept of gender; I think there is also an effort made to make gender awareness in the mainstream,” Sochua said. “But it takes more than just awareness, it takes implementation of the policy and law to impact the lives of women.”

According to the study, Cambodia was listed as the world’s third-most improved country for women’s rights in 2012. The high placement came as the government placed significant priority in women’s equality in legislation including the National Poverty Reduction Strategy and the National Strategic Development Plan.

Vocational training programs made available to Cambodian women, the review says, also offer them chances to learn trades, affording positions in the domestic and foreign workforce.

However, opportunities presented to women as well as societal expectations of their duty to family narrow the occupational fields women may enter and often expose them to exploitative circumstances, said Chhan Sokunthear, head of women and children’s rights for local NGO Adhoc.

“In Cambodian tradition, the women have more responsibility than men to take care of the children and maintain the household,” Sokunthear said.

Rather than encouraging females to finish high school and higher education before entering the workforce, they are typically given training in garment and domestic work, Sokunthear added.

“I think this has not improved.”

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