In spite of gains, gender inequality in Cambodia remains significant, particularly in education and political empowerment, according to the World Economic Forum’s recently released 2015 Global Gender Gap Report.
While the Kingdom is ranked 109 out of 145 countries in the world, slipping one place compared with 2014, its score in the index actually improved, increasing from 0.652 to 0.662.
The highest inequalities were in education, with a rank of 127, and political empowerment, with a rank of 109.
Educational attainment rates for women from primary through secondary school are nearly half that of men. Moreover, of the 4 per cent of primary school-aged children not in school at all, 90 per cent are female. Speaking by phone yesterday, Ros Salin, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said that the gap exists primarily outside of the cities, in rural areas, where access to schools can be difficult and traditional values persist.
“In Cambodian culture, normally girls do the housework [while] the mother goes to the farm,” he said.
Another “challenge is when they upgrade from primary to secondary school, sometimes they have to move to other villages and . . . must go far away from home,” Salin continued, adding that the Ministry has prioritised building primary and secondary schools in rural areas to address the issue.
The gap is also pronounced for university-level education, with only 12 per cent female enrolment compared with 20 per cent male.
Salin says that women marrying younger may be a factor, as the median age is 22 for girls and 25 for boys. Nevertheless, Salin says girls are increasingly pursuing higher education. “I think something has changed in terms of the perception and mindset,” he said.
For political empowerment, the Kingdom performs below average among similar economies. Cambodia’s ministers are 93 per cent male, while parliament is only 20 per cent female.
According to election monitoring NGO Comfrel’s final report on the 2013 elections, only 168 of 886 candidates were women.
Salin says that based on his observations, upon graduating “most of the girls go to private sector while most of the boys go to public sector”.
However, when it comes to senior administrative, management or legislative positions, men dominate, with 82 per cent of the available positions, while in professional and technical careers, women are in just over a third of these jobs.