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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Women's status in Cambodia

Women's status in Cambodia

Cambodia is often referred to as "a country of widows", a legacy of years

of war and the Khmer Rouge time, during which more men than women died.

Two-thirds of adults are female and a third of households are headed by women. Many

receive no education and suffer poor health.

Combined with the lack of working men it makes the role of women in development even

more crucial than in other countries.

Women-only households are usually worse off than other families and single and widowed

women are looked down on by Cambodian society.

A shortage of men has lead to polygamy being fairly common. Marriage is still regarded

as an economic deal, rather than love and companionship.

Infidelity is widespread as most men think it normal to have girlfriends or go to

prostitutes but the mere idea of women being unfaithful is unthinkable.

The burdens of both working and mothering fall heavily on female shoulders with each

woman averaging five live births.

All but 5 per cent of the population works in agriculture and women today toil in

fields and building sites, doing more hard physical tasks than they would have done


While men thresh and winnow rice, women are responsible for most of the sowing, seedbed

preparation, transplanting and harvesting.

Until very recently women were often excluded from training programs in water resources

or agriculture and they are still largely excluded from decision making in these




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