Cambodia had little to no chance of reaching its Millenium Development Goal of having women occupy 25 per cent of commune council seats by 2015, election officials and observers said yesterday.
“We have reached 25 per cent candidates,” National Election Committee secretary-general Tep Nytha said of the upcoming commune elections.
“The obligation to encourage more women candidates is the obligation of each individual political party, and we cannot give the women priority to be elected.”
Cambodia’s UN Millennium Development Goals include a target of 25 per cent female lawmakers at the commune level and 30 per cent at the national level.
Political observers are chalking up the expected shortfall to the nation’s strong patriarchal tradition as well as a failure by political parties to properly support women leaders.
Election monitor Comfrel’s Koul Panha said it was unlikely Cambodia would be able to achieve these goals “for a range of factors”.
“You can see these are just candidates, not elected officials,” he said.
“There are many factors, and we are looking closely at these, but mostly, it is history, and women need a lot of support to climb up in politics.”
Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, agreed tradition played a large role in suppressing political opportunities for women.
“Women have lost opportunities for hundreds and thousands of years,” she said. “Men get support from family, society, colleagues – but for a woman, this is very different.
“The mentality has changed a little, but not very much.”
Women have more hurdles to jump through than men in even just becoming a candidate, Ros Sopheap said.
“Their capacity is always questioned, but never so for men.
“It is ridiculous.”
Prominent female parliamentarian Mu Sochua said the lack of women in politics was a combination of education and a general feeling of lack of opportunity.
“For women to run, they have to find someone to cook, someone to feed the family, someone to look after the children – and this requires support from men,” Mu Sochua said.
“At the end of the day, it is up to the political party to encourage women to participate,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]