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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Secretary for women charts new agenda

Secretary for women charts new agenda

Legislation designed to protect Cambodian women's rights will be introduced at the

National Assembly, according to the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs, Keat

Sokun.

"To move towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women,

education and the dissemination of rights is necessary, and women's rights must be

upheld," Sokun told the Post. "We are reviewing existing laws and customs."

Sokun finds it encouraging that his staff in the secretariat are beginning to believe

in his plans to improve the status and rights of women.

"Within the next 10 years women will be better regarded," Sokun said. "Everyone

agrees that women are the main workers-most traders in the market are women. They

also buy the food and cook the dinner when they get home."

Each ministry and governor will appoint a women's interests representative to spread

information from the Secretariat according to a plan being developed by Sokun.

He sees his function as encouraging the training of women and said that when an Australian

NGO expressed concern at the low numbers of girls in technical schools he suggested

that they should propose a curriculum in small machine maintenance, cooking, carpentry

and hairdressing to the Ministers of Industry and Education.

Since Sokun was appointed at the end of October, his office has been running workshops

in administration, accounting, public relations and statistics.

He is concerned at the low level of women's health and would like to encourage preventive

health programs to reduce the high level of maternal mortality.

Another idea being considered by Sokun is to have integrated women's centres in the

provinces.

"Rural women are very poor and it is hard for them to travel to tell us their

problems," she said. "In the future we don't want the administration and

people far from one another."

Sokun sees the centres as providing shelter for abused women, providing literacy

and skills courses and assisting women to set up their own associations.

Sokun, his wife and two children left Cambodia for Australia in 1974. The couple

had a third child since then.

The Secretary left his family in Australia when he returned to Cambodia last February

and says that he was well-schooled in gender equality by his wife who supported the

family while he obtained a degree in economics.

"Sometimes I feel guilty about being a man in this position," said Sokun.

"I did not have a choice of ministry as the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party

is so small. At first there was 'a push for feminism, against men' in this office.

Now there is an analysis of feminism and gender."

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