Sopheap Chak

Riding the wave of change in Cambodia

Category: Gender (page 2 of 11)

Cambodia: Beyond ‘Inspiring Change,’ the theme for 2014 International Women’s Day

Inspiring change is the theme for this year women rights day celebration held annually on 8 March. Inspiring change has been taken place and will continue to take place only when we all look beyond the theme itself, namely action in real life.

While there are increasing role of women globally, Cambodian women has been on rise to play key roles in social and political life. We are not only witnessing women who are sitting in national assembly or commune council level, but you could also see the female activists who are at frontline to advocate for her and community’s rights to land or natural resource. More and more young women could also be found in various sectors such as social media as a blogher (in Cambodian context, I would name them clogher), journalists, and enterprenuer to name a few. I could proudly say that there are more and more inspiring ladies working in the organization (the Cambodian Center for Human Rights) I am working with and indeed they are the agent of change along with other male colleagues that make CCHR one of promient human rights organization.

This change taken place possible is credited to Cambodian government who has been supportive to women empowerment together with various civil society organization and public especially men who recognize and support the value and role of women could play in this society to work together to make a better change. However, more effort need to be done to ensure the committement and achievement we have been witnessed today could be fully addresing to gender equality.

There are occasion where security force has used disapportionate force against protesters especially when they confronted with female activists. This practice must be stopped to ensure that we all could talk to each other peacefully and with due respect to women rights. There are cases where authority and politician acted and used discriminatory language against women. When it comes to exuse to remove women out of position due to her persistent to uphold her role to protect citizens, the question of her qualification was raised. Such discriminatory attitude shall not be tolerated. When it comes to domestic violence, it is very important that women who are claimed to be victims shall be protected especially from authorities. A case of a recently released on condition land activist Yorm Bopha for example where she calimed of vilotently attacked by her husband, insteading of receieving support from authority and certain media and public to investigate on her domestic violence case, she has been double victimized from the report saying that she had an affair so it was justified for her husband reaction. Another recalling rape case of a young disable girl who was instead receiving full support from authority but was blamed of being rapped as the district police chief commented that “it was already 9 p.m. when was raped. She shouldn’t have been out so late.”

These are few cases out of other reported and under reported cases of vioence and discrimation against women where I want to draw attention to all stakeholders that we need to do more amid our pride that we has been achieving in promoting women rights in this country. Only when women rights are properly respected in real practice, inspiring change could take place as women could join hand equally and proudly with men and other gender for our nation’s development. Also, it is also necessary that women need to catch up with the speed of change by equiping ourselve with knowledge and further capacity building so that we can advance ourselve to change within and for the society. Rights in human history are not granted but advocated.

Happy women rights day!

Social Media and Gender-Based Violence Prevention in Cambodia

On 30th May 2013, I was invited by the Open Institute to be one of keynote presenters for a topic on how social media affect the gender-based violence prevention, the case of Cambodia. With the attendance of representatives from the Ministry of Women Affairs, commune councilors, and civil society organizations, it is hoped that this presentation (which is available in both Khmer and English language) would inspired them to take use and control the technology for the benefit of their work especially for women empowerment as illustrated in certain examples shown in the slide presentation below and for further inquiry re the presentation, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Social Media and GBV in Cambodia

Cambodian Women and the Economy

Cambodian Women and the Economy – Bertelsmann Future Challenges.

 

Cambodian Women and the Economy

A traditional Khmer saying  “sartrey bangvil cheung kran min chum”, meaning  women cannot do anything besides moving around the kitchen,  seems no longer valid in contemporary Cambodian society, at least to a larger extent.

A quick glance at some figures can show why this is so: around 65 percent of a  total of 505,134 establishments recorded in the 2011 Cambodia Economic Census by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) are represented by women – are female-headed in other words – while some 60 percent of persons engaged therein are female – equivalent to roughly one million women.

The saying becomes even less applicable when we look at at the employment figures in the textile and garment industry which has been a major growth driver of the Cambodian economy for more than a decade now. Official statistics of the Ministry of Commerce show that around 90 percent of labor in the textile and garment industry in Cambodia is female, equal to almost 304,000 women as of April 2012. This explicitly stresses the significant contribution Cambodian women make to the country’s economic development.

Women sellers at a provincial market of<br /><br />
Cambodia (Photo by the author (CC BY-ND 2.0))

According to an analysis in the 2007 report “Cambodia’s Garment Industry Post-ATC—Human Development Impact Assessment” of the Economic Institute of Cambodia, every direct job created by the textile and garment industry indirectly creates another job in other sectors – especially in the local trade (in agriculture products, food and clothing) and transportation sectors. Moreover, the textile and garment industries contribute around ten percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Cambodia, according to the NIS in its “National Account”. It is partly due to the role played by women that Cambodia has achieved higher growth rate in its GDP than other  countries in the region, especially prior to the economic crisis in late 2008.

All these facts, however, have yet  suceeded in bridging the gender gap in Cambodia. Female employment opportunities in Cambodia are currently highly concentrated in less skilled jobs which are highly vulnerable to external shocks like economic crises. Trade union and media sources report that some 60,000 female workers were laid off in the textile and garment industries when exports of clothing and accessories slumped in 2009. Most media reports state that while some of them decided to return to their homes to work on the land, many of these unemployed women turned to seek employment opportunities in the entertainment/service sectors which have dangerously high exposure to the flesh trade.

Women working in the  local trade sector have also shared a similar fate. Growth in the local trade sector was stunted as it was largely dependent on growth in the textile and garment industries which, as the NIS shows, experienced negative growth of nine percent in 2009.  This had a bad knock-on effect on local trading activities which are mainly handled by women.

To turn to another aspect, national figures show that the Cambodian female literacy rate stood at 64.1 percent in 2010, far below the literacy rate for males of 84.7 percent. This means there were only 66 girls to every 100 boys participating in higher secondary schooling; and only 48 girls to every 100 boys at college/university level. The obvious outcome here is that even before they enter the employment market, Cambodian women are disadvantaged by having fewer, or even lower, skills than their male counterparts.

The fact that women in Cambodia have not yet attained the same level of professional skills as men is critical and an injustice that needs to be remedied. Better education is needed for Cambodian women workers to close the gender gap and make them less vulnerable to the lure of “entertainment” work.

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