The Cambodian government has announced plans to increase the number of women involved in local politics to hold between a fifth and a quarter of all positions by next year.
Currently women account for just 12 percent of local government officials, according to the government.
Ngan Chamroeun, secretary of state at the interior ministry, told a forum in Phnom Penh last week that women played a vital role in developing the country, but had been prevented from gaining equal access to officialdom.
“Women should compete with men if they think they are capable,” she said. “The government, public institutions and private sector should set clear policies.”
Khol Yuthly, vice president of the National Council for Democratic Development, said ingrained sexism had hampered access to positions of authority for women.
“Leadership is a challenging task, especially leading a commune or district. They will face problems such as working at nighttime, discouragement from spouses, and maternity leave, which will affect their work,” he said.
The forum was held after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in March a drive to encourage women to play a more prominent role in governance.
In June, Mithona Phuthong became the first female provincial governor elected in Cambodia after being chosen to head the Koh Kong administration.
She is the granddaughter of Say Puthong, a former high-ranking member of Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and daughter of Yuth Puthong, a CPP member and former Koh Kong governor himself.
Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, however, said the government had no concrete plans to get more women into positions of power, adding that she had “no faith” that the announcement would bear fruit.