Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called for an increase in female participation at all levels of politics, saying that it would be a “good thing” if women held more than half of government positions.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of a two-day forum on the participation of women at sub-national levels of government, the prime minister urged “ministries and institutions which require the recruitment of new staff to consider women for the positions as much as possible”.
“If ministers request that I appoint women in positions as directors of departments or deputy director generals, I will sign my approval immediately,” he said.
Improving the representation of women in politics, he said, would have wide-reaching benefits. “Investing on women is like investing in the society as a whole,” he said.
Speaking at the workshop on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said efforts to promote the participation of women in politics at a sub-national level had resulted in a steady increase in female commune representatives.
The number of women voted into commune leadership positions rose to 16 percent in the 2007 commune elections, up from 9 percent in 2002, he said. He said he expected the number to increase “up to 20 or 30 percent” in the next commune elections in 2012.
According to Cambodia’s United Nations Millennium Development Goal for gender equality, Cambodia aims to raise the proportion of women in legislative positions to 30 percent by 2015.
Women currently occupy just 13 percent of the seats in the Senate and 21 percent of those the National Assembly. Elections for the Senate in 2012 and the National Assembly in 2013 will be the Kingdom’s last opportunity to achieve this target before the 2015 MDG deadline.
Hun Sen said yesterday that the number of women in the National Assembly had “dramatically increased” from 5 percent in 1993 to 19 percent in 2003 and 22 percent in 2008.
He added, however, that the number of women represented in secretary of state and undersecretary of state positions lingered at 7.7 percent and 12.6 percent respectively in 2008.
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the rights group Licadho and head of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said yesterday that women were also still underrepresented in the judicial and healthcare sectors.
She attributed the low number of women in such positions to a high level of family responsibilities and lack of education for women.
“Gender should be equal, and women should receive equal access to education and support from their family,” she said.
“That would help to encourage women to work outside [the home] and promote harmonious development.”