Women Councilors Still Face Major Obstacles, Report Finds

Despite an increase in female commune councilors, they continue to face substantial obstacles in having their voices heard over issues relating to women and children, especially when it comes to money, according to research released on Friday.

One of the main challenges identified through the research conducted by the Committee to Promote Women in Politics — which comprises interviews with 24 female councilors in the provinces of Kompong Thom, Kandal, Ratanakkiri and Battambang — was the continued underrepresentation of women in decision-making.

Commune councilors in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district wait to vote in council elections. (San Sinary/The Cambodia Daily)

“It’s an obstacle making women face difficulties in raising agendas related to the issues of women and children at the sub-national level for discussion or advocacy,” said Seng Reasy, coordinator for the committee, who presented the findings at the Sunway Hotel.

Another major problem in accessing necessary funding for projects was that female officials receive only limited support from their male counterparts, she said.

“It doesn’t mean all male councilors do not support, but there are a number of male councilors who do not consider the gender issue as a priority issue for them to pay attention to.”

Other challenges include the limited budget for tasks women typically carry out and limited access to information about budgets among female leaders.

In the 2012 commune elections, women were elected to 17 percent of 2,038 commune council positions, while only 96 communes were headed by women.    

One of the interviewees, Chea Kim Hong, a commune councilor for Andoung Por commune in Kompong Thom province’s Baray district, told researchers that she had encountered many problems in accessing budgets to be spent on women’s services.

“There is no budget on my committee for children and women,” she said. “I used to negotiate with the chief of the commune in order to take some of the budget to support social services for women like childbirth services, women with disabilities and children etc.”  

Ms. Kim Hong said the commune chief typically told her that the things she wanted to do were “not possible because there is no budget for that.”

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