As part of the ongoing push for gender equality, women are urging the government to keep the focus on education and economic issues, particularly during financially difficult times
Photo by: KHOUN LEAKHENA
Participants at a recent Silika conference on women in politics.
AS the push for greater representation in the National Assembly takes off, women are now looking to the broader social and economic issues that continue to hedge females out of positions of power.
"Economic issues, the issue of gender inequality in education and healthcare, these are all issues that contribute to the problem that women cannot join politics," Thida Khus, executive director on the NGO Silika's Committee to Promote Women in Politics (CPWP) told the Post.
"What we need now is the government to give women the opportunity to get education and give them the economic independence and freedom that they need to fulfill their many societal roles."
Despite a drive by CPWP to educate women across the country, Im Sithe, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women and Veteran's Affairs, said only a small number of women actually benefited from the training.
"According to our recent survey, out of the women who received workshop training throughout the provinces, only 30 percent said that they understand what they learned. This is a big problem."
Im Sithe said that despite more women wanting to work in politics, some were unable to because of responsibilities they held at home.
"Family factors are a huge issue for women not being able to work in politics," she said, adding that on top of often being the breadwinners, women were also the main caregivers of children.
But Mu Sochua, an opposition politician who served as woman's affairs minister, said that the link between education and power has never been so obvious.
"Lack of education leads directly to dependency," she told the Post Monday. "We need to recognise women's role in society, as it is invaluable."
But, she warned, there were other important issues now at stake, with the global economic crisis having a huge effect on women's rights.
"The economic crisis is affecting poor people in Cambodia, and when we talk about poor people, we are talking about women and children, we are talking about houses run by women," she said. "Women are the main breadwinners, as well as the main educators and caregivers in Cambodia. It is economically crucial that we protect their needs."
Thida Khus said this still came down to education. "We think that the economic crisis is having an effect on women's rights, because women have such huge roles in Cambodian society, and they cannot compete without education," she said.
Im Sith, however, said that traditional family roles of women should be looked at as a means of empowering women, rather than dis-empowering them.
"Women traditionally manage the money in their households, so it is only unfortunate that the ministry of economic and finance does not have any women to work as leaders in these areas."