A man - Secretary of State for Women's Affairs Keat Sukun - will lead Cambodia's
delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in
Cambodia has asked to vice-chair the huge conference, attended
by representatives of 188 countries, international organizations and
Sukun will be the only man in the Cambodian delegation - though one
of the Co-Prime Ministers may attend the last day of the conference - but he has
no qualms about that.
"If we send [an] inferior woman, it means we don't
give importance to the meeting.... Only top leaders will attend the meeting, it
doesn't matter if they are men or women," he said.
"Therefore, we have to
send a high-profile official from the government to show that we give importance
to the conference."
Sukun said any women who headed the Cambodian
delegation would face problems of language and lack of experience in such
"They [women] are used to sitting in the back row. If we put
them in the front row and ask them to make a speech, take notes and answer
questions, I think they would be unable to manage as they have little
He said that at international women's conferences in Jakarta
and the United Nations, he had seen competent women, some of them doctors, from
countries like the Philippines, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka.
Cambodia lacked high-qualified women and, in the meantime, had to rely on men to
head delegations to important meetings.
Sukun said he was afraid and
embarrassed when he first attended a women's conference, in Jakarta, but found
he was not the only man there.
One consensus of that conference was that
more men should participate in such meetings, in the interests of having a
balanced forum of views.
Sukun expected that less than 10 per cent of the
20,000 people attending the Beijing meeting would be men.
delegation would be made up of between 10 and 30 people, depending on available
The conference, being held September 4-15, will concentrate on:
poverty; health and education; armed and other conflicts; violence against
women; economic disparity; women in politics; national and international women's
institutions; human rights; mass media; and the environment and
Sukun, a BLDP party official with degrees in commerce and
law, said he spent most of his time arranging training programs for women and
drafting laws for them.
He said he was happy to use his position to help
Cambodia's women, until the time came when he could turn his job over to a woman
and return to his business career.
He said that would take time, but
thought it was possible a woman could be appointed to his position after the
next elections. He considered that Cambodian women were "improving", gradually
becoming brave enough to express their opinions, attend meetings and discuss
problems. However, he believed many women still treated small problems as though
they were big, which prevented them from being successful.