Legislation designed to protect Cambodian women's rights will be introduced at the
National Assembly, according to the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs, Keat
"To move towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women,
education and the dissemination of rights is necessary, and women's rights must be
upheld," Sokun told the Post. "We are reviewing existing laws and customs."
Sokun finds it encouraging that his staff in the secretariat are beginning to believe
in his plans to improve the status and rights of women.
"Within the next 10 years women will be better regarded," Sokun said. "Everyone
agrees that women are the main workers-most traders in the market are women. They
also buy the food and cook the dinner when they get home."
Each ministry and governor will appoint a women's interests representative to spread
information from the Secretariat according to a plan being developed by Sokun.
He sees his function as encouraging the training of women and said that when an Australian
NGO expressed concern at the low numbers of girls in technical schools he suggested
that they should propose a curriculum in small machine maintenance, cooking, carpentry
and hairdressing to the Ministers of Industry and Education.
Since Sokun was appointed at the end of October, his office has been running workshops
in administration, accounting, public relations and statistics.
He is concerned at the low level of women's health and would like to encourage preventive
health programs to reduce the high level of maternal mortality.
Another idea being considered by Sokun is to have integrated women's centres in the
"Rural women are very poor and it is hard for them to travel to tell us their
problems," she said. "In the future we don't want the administration and
people far from one another."
Sokun sees the centres as providing shelter for abused women, providing literacy
and skills courses and assisting women to set up their own associations.
Sokun, his wife and two children left Cambodia for Australia in 1974. The couple
had a third child since then.
The Secretary left his family in Australia when he returned to Cambodia last February
and says that he was well-schooled in gender equality by his wife who supported the
family while he obtained a degree in economics.
"Sometimes I feel guilty about being a man in this position," said Sokun.
"I did not have a choice of ministry as the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party
is so small. At first there was 'a push for feminism, against men' in this office.
Now there is an analysis of feminism and gender."