WOMEN from the two major political parties came together to discuss politics for
the first time on Apr 6, hoping to show how women can take the lead in politics that
go beyond traditional party rivalries.
"We should use the word 'politics' in a very broad sense," said Minister
for Women's and Veteran's Affairs Mu Sochua of the Apr 6 Forum on Women in Politics,
who described the meeting as "very warm". About 30 women from government
and NGOs attended the daylong session.
"It is the first gathering of women at this level," Sochua added. "It
is to mobilize the forces of women, women who know the issues."
Panelists - including NGO leaders and government officials - shared their experiences
and answered questions on how women could make a difference.
"When we enter party politics, we enter with a social agenda," Funcinpec
steering committee member Sochua said, adding: "The political atmosphere at
the moment is very wide open for changes to happen, I'm very inspired."
Her undersecretary of state, San Sandy Arun - who is from the rival CPP party - agreed
that the forum could be a starting point for a new way of looking at politics.
"The forum was to share our past experiences, who we are, where we come from
and how we got here," Arun explained.
"Women should be involved in all different issues, social, economic, and political,"
she added, noting: "But I always tell people, you never get away from politics,
whatever you do."
But she said in her ministry, relations were warm between Funcinpec and CPP appointees.
"Sometimes we have to talk about the parties, bargain back and forth, but. .
. in our ministry, so far, we work well together. . . we're like a sisterhood."
She added that she believes women work together more cooperatively than men do. "We
have less ego than men," she said, noting that the top ministry staff dispenses
with formal titles of "Excellency", and that nobody, not even Sochua, travels
with ostentatious bodyguards.
She also noted that party ideologies fade when the staff confronts the problems for
which the Ministry has responsibility.
"We are normal, regular people. We just want to be here and help women and veterans."
The Forum on Women and Politics was sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and several
German dignitaries attended, including the vice-president of the German parliament,
Sochua concluded the meeting by calling for more political dialogue by women from
all backgrounds, and recommending that education for women should be compulsory.
"I am moved and inspired by the commitment expressed by all participants today,"
she said. "I think there should be more men sitting together like this to discuss