Women face few prospects in the economy or politics, highlighting a need for better education and opportunities, a leading rights advocate said Thursday.
Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho, told “Hello VOA” that women here are limited in what they can do, with many finding their way to labor in the garment sector.
“We do not want women to just be garment factory workers,” she said. “If women have work to do, it’s better than nothing. But we want to see women becoming the presidents of companies, leaders of large or medium-sized companies. We want women to obtain very high levels of education in order for women to be incorporated in all sectors of societal leadership.”
“We do not want women to take over the roles of men, but to be equal or very much the same,” she said.
She noted that Tuesday marked the centennial of International Women’s Day, which began 100 years ago when women worldwide began standing up for their rights.
Cambodian women face a wide range of obstacles in their educational development. Most drop out before university, and only one about 1 percent of key leadership roles in the government are held by women, Pung Chhiv Kek said.
That includes 27 parliamentarians, one deputy prime minister, two ministers, 19 secretaries of state and 28 undersecretaries of state.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan acknowledged the shortage, saying women face an educational problem and poverty in post-conflict Cambodia.
“That does not mean the men of Cambodia, or the government, do not value women,” he said. Within the Cambodian People’s Party there are many women, he said.
The government has in its five-year development plan goals to develop women through better training and education, but despite such plans, women face an uphill struggle.
Pung Chhiv Kek said she has watched the government’s agenda for women since 1993, from the first election, and noticed more women in government positions. But she also noted that women face domestic violence, rape, trafficking, poverty, poor education and a culture of impunity that does little to bring justice for violence acted against them.
A country with greater development priorities for women will remain more stable, she said.