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Few indigenous women in government: study

SEXUAL discrimination and lack of education are preventing indigenous women from serving in government posts, according to a study presented on Wednesday.

The study, supported by the German development organisation GTZ and the Heinroch Boll Foundation, also found that indigenous women were willing if not eager to work as civil servants “in order to show their capacity and to eliminate discrimination”.

The study draws from interviews conducted in 2009 with women in four provinces: Mondulkiri, Kratie, Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng.

In two of those provinces – Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri – no women had been selected to serve as commune chiefs in areas populated by indigenous groups. Both provinces, though, boasted female indigenous heads of their women’s affairs departments.

Kratie also did not have any female indigenous commune chiefs. The researchers were unable to conclude whether any of the commune chiefs in Stung Treng were indigenous women.

The researchers also found that many of the indigenous women working in commune offices in the four provinces were “cleaners, tea-makers and hostesses during meetings”, though they said this could not be attributed to discrimination against indigenous women but rather to discrimination against women in general.

Thida Khus, the executive director of the NGO Silaka and secretary general of the Committee to Promote Women in Politics, a coalition of eight Cambodian NGOs, said she hoped the research would prompt the government to take steps to bolster the political participation of women.

“We want to take steps to improve their livelihoods,” she said.

Chou Bun Eng, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said during the launch of the study’s findings on Wednesday that many indigenous women were reluctant to participate in group activities.

“They find it hard when they are selected to be involved in a commune work. It is a new heavy burden for them after looking after children,” she said, adding that one way to encourage women to enter politics would be to encourage men to take on housework.

She added, though, that the government was trying to incorporate more women in politics at all levels, and pointed to Men Sam An, a female deputy prime minister, as proof that its efforts were meeting with success.

“Just below the prime minister, who is a man, we have a deputy prime minister, who is female,” she said.

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