March 8 this year marks the 111th anniversary of International Women’s Day under the theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Future”. Thanks to the women’s movement and efforts in these early days, the world took on a new global dimension for women in terms of progress made for equality, justice, women’s rights and participation in the social, economic process. and politics.
Global calls to promote gender equality, empower women’s rights and increase women’s civic engagement have also been heard since then. This has resulted in the adoption of various global initiatives, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals , in particular Goal 5, which emphasizes the need to achieve greater equality for women, to name a few.
In Cambodia, the government has put great political will and attaches great importance to promoting gender equality and women’s participation in all sectors aimed at achieving economically, socially and politically inclusive and sustainable development and become a middle-income country by 2030 and beyond. -income countries by 2050.
In his speech to celebrate the 109th International Women’s Day in 2020, Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated, “We continue to pay attention to and encourage women to participate in a higher level of leadership.”
The Cambodian government’s commitment to elevating the status of women and empowering them to engage in high-level leadership is reflected in government policies, including the Rectangle Strategy, Neary Rattanak, and the Plan of the Cambodian National Council for Women, National Strategic Development Plans (NSDP), each of which precondition for gender mainstreaming at all levels of government.
This has resulted in a significant increase in women’s participation and civic engagement at all levels. In 2021, women represented 21% of the National Assembly and 16% of the Senate. There is one female deputy prime minister (10%), three female ministers (10.34%) and two female provincial governors (8%). The proportion of women in the civil service increased to 41% in 2021, from 38% in 2014.
In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, for example, five women currently represent Cambodia in a high-level diplomatic position as ambassador out of 27 embassies and four permanent missions in other countries, two women assuming the role of Consul General. . This figure means that the proportion of Cambodian women involved in diplomatic affairs is 16%, which exceeds the 15% of the world average. The relatively high rate of women engaged in diplomacy is the result of the Cambodian government’s strategies to promote women in high-level decision-making and politics.
In addition to engaging in foreign affairs, women are also believed to play an important role in contributing to peace building. Greater participation of women in the peacekeeping and peacebuilding process will change the dynamics of peacekeeping missions and pave the way for more sustainable peace. Given this importance and the critical role of women in the peacekeeping and peacebuilding process, it led to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 – the first and only resolution dedicated solely to Women in Peace and Security (WPS).
This resolution places special emphasis on the gendered impacts of conflict-related violence and promotes the full engagement of women at all stages of peace processes. Specifically, the WPS agenda revolves around four priority areas regarding international peace and security issues: (1) “participation” of women’s political leadership in peace and security governance; (2) ‘prevention’, emphasizing strategies for combating violence; (3) the “protection” of women, both of their rights and of their bodies; and (4) “relief and recovery for survivors of conflict”, in particular survivors of sexual violence in conflict.
Cambodia, from a war-torn country to a contributory peace-building nation, has been active and committed to ensuring the meaningful participation of women in peace processes and security services in various areas of conflict and world war.
During the commemoration of International Women’s Day in 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in his speech that Cambodia was committed to increasing the number of women in peacekeeping forces “peacekeepers”, to create an enabling environment for women to realize their full potential and to broaden their participation. in the process of sustainable development and consolidation of peace in the world.
The continued decision was also made by Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Vice President of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), at an international conference on “Strengthening the Role of Women in Building and Sustaining Peace: From Commitments to Results”.
The strong commitment of Cambodian leaders has resulted in an increase in the number of female peacekeepers. Since 2006, Cambodia has deployed nearly 7,900 peacekeepers to participate in UN humanitarian, mine clearance and peacekeeping operations in nine war-torn countries, including 494 women. The proportion is a significant achievement and has ranked Cambodia second among ASEAN and 13th out of 122 countries for women’s participation and contribution to achieving international peace and security.
Reiterating the commitment and promotion of women and issues of peace and security, in 2021 – when Cambodia was chairing the 13th Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM13) – the Kingdom organized a side event titled “Asia-Europe Forum on women, peace and security”. It served as an important event to promote and advance WPS discussion on the important role and contribution of women in the field of security and peacekeeping, as well as the and critical concerns evolving around gender-based violence.
Moreover, as this year Cambodia assumes the role of ASEAN Chair for the third time, and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has reaffirmed its strong commitment to promoting gender equality and the essential role women in leadership by leading the second ASEAN Women Leaders Summit in 2022.
Viewing women as a key driving force for economic, cultural and social development, Cambodia has continued to have a strong commitment to empowering women in all sectors and in particular to advancing women in leadership roles and in peace. and security. However, apart from the strong endorsement and great efforts of the government to promote and empower women, it is also important that women believe in themselves and that anything is possible.
To break down social norms and prejudices, they must constantly improve their knowledge and abilities, instead of self-limiting and holding back when given the opportunity.
Sokpanya Phon is an adviser to the National Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.