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Women to play bigger role in NA

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But with just one in five National Assembly members a woman, civil society groups say political parties should be doing more to promote women to positions of authority

VANDY RATTANA

Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey votes during this year’s national election. The Princess is no longer a parliamentarian.

THE proportion of women in the new National Assembly has increased to around one in five - up from 13 percent previously - but political observers and women's rights advocates say political parties are still lagging behind in their responsibility to give women more active roles in government.

Koul Panha, executive director of Cambodian election monitor Comfrel, said the government had set official goals for women's participation in politics, but that there was no way to tell if steps had been taken to promote women to the national legislature.

"The goal of the government is to have about 30 percent women in politics by 2015, but we do not yet know about the government's framework to push women to participate in the National Assembly or in other institutions," he said.

"I want the government to sign a law that puts one or two women in each institution in order to give women more chances to participate in the workings of their country."

Thida Khus, executive director of local rights group Silaka, said that despite government targets, getting into politics was difficult for women, since men usually chose other men for government appointments. "The government plan for 2010 is 25 percent of women in the National Assembly and for 2015 it is 30 percent, but the numbers of women in Assembly are increasing slowly because positions are in men's hands," she said.

"We will advocate for 30 percent by 2015 because when women participate more,  [politicians] will know that they are needed in relation to health and education."

Do not pigeonhole women

But US Embassy representative Piper Campbell said women should be engaged with the full range of political issues, adding that this year's national election campaign showed a wealth of talented female politicians ready for the task. "I was really impressed with the quality of some of the women who were candidates," she said Saturday, adding that the lack of women in politics was a net loss for the Kingdom.

"As a woman, I am disappointed not to see more women representatives in the National Assembly because I think women bring a very important perspective and some really important concerns," she said.

"[But] I think it is important not to think that women in parliament are only going to take on women's issues. All politicians have to be concerned with all the issues of the political spectrum."

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