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The politics of gender

Twenty-eight-year-old Tek Nim, a Sam Rainsy Party member and newly elected commune chief in Omlaing commune, in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district, poses for a photograph. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Pich Srey Pho’s involvement in politics may have contributed to the demise of her marriage, but that hasn’t stopped her from encouraging other women to follow in her footsteps and become a commune council member.

Pich Srey Pho, who represents the Cambodian People’s Party in Pursat, said cultural stereotyping was hindering women’s involvement in politics.

“My husband asked me to stay at home,” she said.

Pich Srey Pho didn’t – she went out to campaign instead – and is now divorced.

Because of such gender barriers, parties need to make more effort to promote women’s involvement in politics, party representatives and NGOs said in a meeting yesterday.

The Cambodian Millennium Development Goals include a target for 25 per cent of commune seats to be filled by women by 2015. Less than 18 per cent went to women at this year’s commune election.

“Our society has not seen the benefits of women participating in politics,” said Ros Sopheap, executive director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia.

Women have proved themselves in fields such as education and many have the potential to make a difference in politics, she said.

At just 28, Tek Nim, the newly elected Omlaing commune chief in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district, is an example.

“I didn’t pay attention to politics,” she said. “But then we were faced with land grabbing.” She joined the Sam Rainsy Party and won her seat last month.

Twenty-one per cent of the CPP’s commune council members are women – the highest among all parties.

Pich Srey Pho attributes her party’s success to its women’s communications skills and transparency. Both Funcinpec and the Human Rights Party believe CPP leads simply because it has more resources.

What the parties can agree on is that the perception politics is “unwomanly” is something that needs changing.

A good start would be to pay women politicians more, Pich Srey Pho said, as many were getting less than most husbands can offer to keep their wives at home.

To contact the reporter on this story: Xiaoqing Pi at



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