PHNOM PENH —
Despite making up more than half the population, Cambodian women are under-represented in the country’s decision-making process, according to the organizers of a new campaign aimed at increasing female political participation.
Ahead of local elections in 2017 and the next general election in 2018, DW Akademie, Banteay Srei and WMC have teamed up for a project called “Women into politics! Greater participation in Cambodia.”
The scheme seeks ways to support women, especially young women and first-time voters, to more actively participate in the political process.
Funded by the European Union, the three-year project will operate in Phnom Penh, Kampong Thom, Battambang and Siem Reap.
Ing Kantha Phavi, women’s affairs minister, said there had been a positive trend towards greater participation of women in recent years, from 14.6% to 17.8% of women becoming politically active.
Women's Affairs Minister Ing Kanthaphavy delivers a speech to the launch ceremony of a project aimed to increase women engagement in politics at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel, on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Aun Chhengpor/VOA Khmer)
“The women need their voices to be heard. So far women’s issues were not often raised as men do not deal with the same problems as women. Women have their own ways to lead their lives. Men and women are equal,” Kantha Phavi said.
She added that as well as more women leaders Cambodia also needed to strengthen the quality of female candidates for leadership.
Thida Khus, executive director of women’s development NGO Silaka, said there were plenty of capable women already in the country. The problem, she said, was access.
Women Affairs Minister Ing Kanthaphavy, right, talks to a long-time women rights advocate Thida Khus, left, at a ceremony to engage women into politics at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel, on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Aun Chhengpor/VOA Khmer)
“If women take an equal part in policy making, they can communicate women’s needs. Women tend to pay more attention to social affairs and well-being,” Khus said. “Without women, policy makers are more likely to spend social budgets according to a man’s priorities, for example. Also, we need more women in politics to be role models for younger women.”