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Government discusses quotas for local female representation

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National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development official Khorl Yuthly speaks at a forum on women in sub-national governance yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Government discusses quotas for local female representation

The government yesterday launched a plan to increase the number of women in top roles at the provincial and district levels to more than 20 percent by 2018. However, the scheme’s architect yesterday appeared to reinforce the very gender stereotypes women’s rights advocates say need to be dismantled in order for women to succeed.

At the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD) forum in Chroy Changvar yesterday, deputy head of policy analysis and development Khorl Yuthly outlined a plan to reach new quotas, equaling 93 additional senior roles for women within the year.

Yet in an interview, Yuthly suggested women “lack bravery” and still hold the view that they cannot “go far from the stove”.

“As we know, the women as leaders are really limited, and there are other factors hindering women from become qualified as leaders,” he said, adding this could be corrected with support and training.

“If she has a family and has children, her work will be less effective since she is busy with her personal tasks rather than the institution.”

As of June last year, Cambodia’s provinces had no female governors, and just 12 percent of management positions – such as department and administration chiefs – were women in urban areas. That figure persists despite almost half of the Kingdom’s 200,000 civil servants being women.

However, forum attendees yesterday touted last month’s appointment of Mithona Phouthorng, the first female governor in Koh Kong, whose father has also held the position.

To reach the provincial capital quota of 20 percent, 31 additional senior jobs will need to be held by women in urban centres by next year. The number of women in district-level management sits at 21.5 percent, which the government hopes to elevate to 25 percent, or 61 additional roles.

NCDD deputy head Ngan Chamroeun said several changes needed to be made, including work-place childcare, flexible working hours, training, mentorships and ending harassment. He said the majority of an estimated 100 jobs soon to be vacated by retirees should be handed to women.

Opposition Deputy President Mu Sochua said that Yuthly’s comments reflected the kind of gender discrimination that showed quotas were needed. “I am totally in favour of the increase, as long as it is a transparent process, on merits and not nepotism,” she said. “Once in the position, they should not be afraid to speak up. Women are victims of land grabs and forced evictions, so it’s critical that these female officials use their [power] to deliver justice for women.”

Ros Sopheap, of Gender and Development in Cambodia, pointed out that women’s representation at the recent commune elections had decreased; indeed, women in both major parties were pushed down the ballot. “It’s a good document, but in practice, they do not care,” she said.

“They blame the women because there are no women [to promote], when really there is no space for women from the beginning.”

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