Women are gold – 8M Cambodia

International Women´s Day Camboya
International Women´s Day Camboya

Second article covering International Women´s Day.

After the perspective from Nepali women we travel back to Cambodia, with the involvement of Chem Srey Oeun.

Srey is member of, among others, Future Forum (who works developing policies and guidelines for political and social changes to be studied and hopefully implemented by the government) and Lady Saving Group (association that works for reaching equal rights) in Phnom Penh, apart from also being involved in a multitude of initiatives to foster and improve women´s empowerment.

Precisely, last March 4th, Srey was invited with other Women Leader Mentors to be part of the young female leader seed program, whose slogan was “The female leader seeds“.

In this program, young women between 15 and 25 years old are given the opportunity to show their contribution as volunteers in social related projects and are also invited to join a mentoring program with other entrepreneur women.

The female leader seeds The female leader seeds

"The female leader seeds" mentoring program
“The female leader seeds” mentoring program

Besides, throughout the activities programed for the International Women´s Day in Cambodia´s capital, Phnom Penh, there was a girl football match organized by Action Aid NGO.

The aiming of the event was to promote the message “Women are gold” and “Safe city for women”.

There is a specific meaning for the concept “Women are gold”. In Cambodian culture, men are considered as gold whereas women are not and women are comparable to white clothes.

Men can do things, i.e. getting involved with sex before marriage, and they are still okay. They are still gold even after there is stain, they can still be cleaned and become shinny gold again.

Women, in contrast, if getting involved with sex before marriage or loss their virginity before marriage, they are not accepted by society. They are the white clothes which is hard to remove stain.


Women are gold Women are gold

So with this campaign, they are trying to eliminate those kind of unfair concept.

Last, here are Srey´s answers about women rights in Cambodia from her own perspective as an entrepreneur/leader and Cambodian woman.


In terms of women rights, how is the situation in the country? How has it evolved?


I have noticed that there are a lot of improvement regarding to women right in the last 5 years especially in the city.


Women here mostly constraint from cultural and social norm (i.e. women are expected to do the housework and take care of baby while wen are expected to do the professional job so women deserve lower education level; women are not allowed to live with their partner before marriage; and women should not wear sexy dress etc.).


Now that women has more roles in financial generation especially in the garment factory field, they gain more says in society. Nonetheless, the level of women education and leading position in any type of institution (Gov, NGO and private sectors) are still low.


Girls in rural areas still face the discrimination on education (girls should stay home and help family chores) and difficulties and safety in accessing the education.


There are also trafficking issue that women especially in the rural areas are facing. There are many rape cases across country.


4 years ago, I have talked to a woman politician. She mentioned that she had a lot of difficulties including:

  • She is expected to stay home and take care of her children while her work needs travel a lot. And her husband was not so supportive on that.
  • When she is on mission, she usually is a women among many men where she gains little respect from those male politician
  • Also, as she was alone among men, she was accused of having affair with those guys.
  • There was no support system for her personally and emotionally as well as she was the lone women leader.


How is your perspective as women, as entrepreneurs and founder/team of an NGO?


Though there is improvement on women status in the society, there is a lot to be done to have the equality in the society. I want to see more women in the leadership roles so they can show their capacity and capability to the society.


Plus, there is a strong need for women to have financial freedom which is one of the core part of her in gaining freedom or says in family and society. I have seen that there are more female entrepreneurs in the society, but we need more of that. I may sound bias, but I think women have great leadership in them.


They have more sense of human meaning not treating people as money making machine and care more about the well being of staff (some men also have it), but this quality seems to exist more among women.


Do you find any additional barriers when dealing with public institutions? And donors?


I have not had much difficulties in finding support. As I mentioned above, there is improvement for women situation in the city and plus the circle that I am in are very supportive and encouraging for equality between men and women.


How is it in rural areas?


I have answered above. But I want to add a bit more here. In terms of opportunities (education, employment, information), the women in rural area receive very limited information and opportunities.


Those who lives in the city have variety of choices and opportunity and exposure to the world and high quality of education (English is a part of it).


Has society in general improved in this aspect in the recent years?


Yes, I also answered above.


Are the salaries equal regarding of gender? How about education or law?


From my observation, there are still bias in terms of salary especially when it comes to skilled labor.


I think it comes with position that the men hold, plus the belief that men have more expertise than women.


Which is the % of women in leadership/decision taking positions, in politics, private companies, and public institutions?

The proportion of female civil servants increased from 21.13 percent in 2011 to 25.98 percent in 2016.


Female prison officers rose from 8.8 percent in 2011 to 11 percent in 2016.


Women in the national police went from 4.68 percent to 5.74 percent in the same period.

How is it shown in media for example?


From what I observe, there is not much focus on women leadership in media. Usually they put it in the big theme i.e. entrepreneurship and they invite both men and women.


Is there going to be a strike as well in Cambodia next Thursday on International Women´s Day?

(Notw: Not answered yet)

"The female leader seeds" mentoring program
“The female leader seeds” mentoring program


Thank you very much to Srey Oeun for being involved in the article and sharing her opinion.

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