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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man to lead women to Beijing... of course

Man to lead women to Beijing... of course

A man - Secretary of State for Women's Affairs Keat Sukun - will lead Cambodia's

delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in

September.

Cambodia has asked to vice-chair the huge conference, attended

by representatives of 188 countries, international organizations and

NGOs.

Sukun will be the only man in the Cambodian delegation - though one

of the Co-Prime Ministers may attend the last day of the conference - but he has

no qualms about that.

"If we send [an] inferior woman, it means we don't

give importance to the meeting.... Only top leaders will attend the meeting, it

doesn't matter if they are men or women," he said.

"Therefore, we have to

send a high-profile official from the government to show that we give importance

to the conference."

Sukun said any women who headed the Cambodian

delegation would face problems of language and lack of experience in such

matters.

"They [women] are used to sitting in the back row. If we put

them in the front row and ask them to make a speech, take notes and answer

questions, I think they would be unable to manage as they have little

experience."

He said that at international women's conferences in Jakarta

and the United Nations, he had seen competent women, some of them doctors, from

countries like the Philippines, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka.

But

Cambodia lacked high-qualified women and, in the meantime, had to rely on men to

head delegations to important meetings.

Sukun said he was afraid and

embarrassed when he first attended a women's conference, in Jakarta, but found

he was not the only man there.

One consensus of that conference was that

more men should participate in such meetings, in the interests of having a

balanced forum of views.

Sukun expected that less than 10 per cent of the

20,000 people attending the Beijing meeting would be men.

The Cambodian

delegation would be made up of between 10 and 30 people, depending on available

funds.

The conference, being held September 4-15, will concentrate on:

poverty; health and education; armed and other conflicts; violence against

women; economic disparity; women in politics; national and international women's

institutions; human rights; mass media; and the environment and

development.

Sukun, a BLDP party official with degrees in commerce and

law, said he spent most of his time arranging training programs for women and

drafting laws for them.

He said he was happy to use his position to help

Cambodia's women, until the time came when he could turn his job over to a woman

and return to his business career.

He said that would take time, but

thought it was possible a woman could be appointed to his position after the

next elections. He considered that Cambodian women were "improving", gradually

becoming brave enough to express their opinions, attend meetings and discuss

problems. However, he believed many women still treated small problems as though

they were big, which prevented them from being successful.

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