The number of women standing in the upcoming commune elections remains low, civil society groups have warned, driven by a lack of nominations from Cambodia’s male-dominated political elite.
The groups voiced concerns that Cambodia could fail to meet its sustainable development goals outline by the United Nations, which stipulates that half of all political posts should be held by women by 2030.
Seng Reasey, coordinator of the Committee to Promote Women in Politics, said that the small number of women getting involved in politics was a barrier to promoting women’s issues at the highest levels of society.
“If the number of women rose slightly, the issues of women at a local level as well as other issues at the sub-national level, would not be addressed fully,” she said.
She added that women faced budgetary constraints which were not faced by men trying to get into politics.
“Normally, to get into politics requires money, and women have found it difficult to take money from the home to politics. If their husbands are in politics, they will likely agree. But if they are not, they may question the choice,” she said.
Some 27 percent of candidates standing in the commune elections on June 4 are women, according to Reasey.
Thida Khus, executive director of Silaka, a women’s rights NGO, said social conflicts and individual circumstance often played a part in keeping women out of politics.
In principal, political leaders have committed to nominating more women to become candidates, but many incumbent male politicians have declined to step down to free up space for female candidates.
She added that it was difficult to free up space for women in areas “where a lot of money can be earned” or where “there are controversial land disputes.”
Yem Vannet, who is standing as a candidate for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in Tbong Khmum province’s Suong city, said she had put women’s issues at the heart of her campaign, but was so far struggling to win support.
“I said that if I am a woman, I can contribute to help women and women’s issues ...I can help kids go to kindergartens. After I mentioned all these issues related to women’s issues I was offered the chance to run,” she said.