In the Field
Cambodia is a post-conflict society emerging from decades of civil war and genocide. The legacy of violence, a lack of trust and the destruction of the social fabric that resulted from these traumas are present in the current power structures, poorly functioning judicial and legislative institutions, corruption and inequitable economic, social and political development.
Women’s Leadership and Political Participation
Since the country’s first national elections in 1993, women in Cambodia have made significant strides toward increasing their political participation. While greater representation has brought about much-needed awareness of women’s issues in the country, serious obstacles remain.
Longstanding and deep-seated gender stereotypes, limited educational opportunities and increasing demands to manage agricultural production alongside household, child and elder care responsibilities hinder participation and efforts to sustain participation.
Women are often marginalized within their own parties and left out of decision-making at local and national levels. This hinders their ability to influence development and policy-level decision making. Despite these challenges, women are taking leadership roles in order to foster good governance and peacebuilding, primarily through civil society. They are monitoring human rights, challenging corruption, empowering local communities and working toward strengthening legislation.
Since March 2012, in partnership with Khmer Ahimsa (KAH), a local Cambodian organization headed by 2005 Woman PeaceMaker Thavory Huot, the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) has been addressing challenges for women’s participation in the political sphere.
KAH and the IPJ have brought together women from the main political parties who work in different public and private capacities across the country. These cross-party trainings in communication and negotiation skills have been the impetus for breaking down barriers, creating alliances and identifying common interests and goals. Moreover, the trainings have provided a platform to enhance and strengthen the skills and confidence of women involved in politics, and build an understanding of the integral role women have in governance and peacebuilding.
To date, over 100 women have participated in IPJ-led trainings. The IPJ is recognized by UN Women and other international organizations as uniquely positioned to continue this work, thanks to its convening power and ability to draw on the expertise of its own Women PeaceMakers Asia Regional Network who met there in December 2011 to support the work of KAH.
For more information about the IPJ’s work in Cambodia, please contact Program Officer Zahra Ismail.
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