Transparency International (TI) Cambodia on March 19 released a survey report on the challenges of women and youth in leadership roles in Cambodia. The report recommended the government, NGOs, relevant ministries and institutions to promote women and youth in decision-making positions.

The survey was conducted from June 2019 to January 2020 with a total of 569 respondents in the form of in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and desk reviews. The respondents were officers from national level and sub-national state authorities in five provinces. In addition, 16 monks and 10 LGBTIQ people were also interviewed.

The report said women still bear family burdens such as taking care of children. They are not motivated by parents or teachers to be leaders. In public institutions, they face the dominance of men, lack of trust of their abilities due to being young and less experienced.

They also have to endure social norms such as ‘Chbab Srey’, which literally means ‘law for women’, and the opinion that women are physically weak.

The report also said youth have not been motivated by parents to get involved in politics. They are not motivated to step in to decision-making positions because of the belief that their competence is low, while they are also denied the opportunity of leadership roles.

Migration for work, restrictions on freedom of expression, nepotism, and lack of soft skills in adapting to work are also challenges youth are facing, the report said.

The report recommended that government, educational institution and schools, and NGOs to promote women participation, particularly in decision-making positions, the change of stereotypes on women, and other challenges the survey found.

The government should also promote youth to be leaders by providing them leadership training courses and the opportunity to enter the government structure. NGOs should continue their support on training women and youth according to their needs.

TI Cambodia executive director Pech Pisey said the number of women and youth in decision-making positions has increased, but only gradually.

“The most common challenge is the social atmosphere; our society still sees women and youth as unable to be leaders,” he said, adding that the low number of women in decision-making happens in state institutions, NGOs and the media.

US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy, one of the speakers at the launching event said countries with women as president or prime minster are usually more peaceful, inclusive and conflict is reduced.

“When youth can participate, we can see the introduction of creative and innovative ideas. Often what I see with youth here in Cambodia who want to be leaders is they don’t think about preparing for future roles as leaders. Consider yourselves leaders now,” he said.

Ros Soveacha, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport said his ministry has been working to improve gender equality among education officials at all levels.

“The ministry has also increased women and youth participation in leadership roles both at national and sub-national levels and at schools. Their participation is encouraged, especially in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Cheng Chinneth, Director of Gender Equality at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs said her ministry is committed to promote women for leadership positions through the Neary Rattanak IV strategy. Women in leadership positions are also included in the national policy on gender.

Since 2009, her ministry has pushed other ministries and institutions to recruit between 20 to 50 per cent of women in their recruitment plan.

“Until now, we see the number of women in the public sector, politics, and decision-making positions has increased. Up to 41 per cent of civil servants are now women,” she said.