Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Your Excellency FUMIAKI TAKAHASHI, Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia
Samech, Your Royal Highness, Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great pleasure to joint you all in the official inauguration of the new building for Ministry of Women Affairs (MWA). This is the new achievement attained under the good cooperation between the governments of Cambodia and Japan, using counterpart funds and Japan’s non-project assistance in addition to other supports provided in the past, in order to contribute to the development of women affairs sector. This achievement corresponds to the needs of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), especially for the MWA, a new ministry which requires appropriate facilities to implement Royal Government’s policies to improve living standards, position and role of women in the process of socio-economic development in Cambodia at the present and the future.
On behalf of the People and Royal Government (RG) as well as my own self, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the government and people of Japan for their direct contribution to develop and enhance the living standards of Cambodian people, which is a part of national policies for poverty reduction of the RG. All Cambodians will always remember the contribution of the government and people of Japan in peace building and assistance to RG in the past years, especially generous assistance in socio-economic sectors as well as providing scholarships to train many young civil servants to obtain undergraduate, graduate and post graduate level degrees. All these assistances are very important for Cambodia to stand up again after we successfully ended the protracted civil war in the last three decades. In fact, many of the achievements in terms of physical infrastructure across the country such as bridges, national roads, schools and hospitals are the donation from Japanese government.
Furthermore, Japan is a good friend of Cambodia that has supported and assisted Cambodia in many circumstances by rehabilitating and developing all sectors through technical assistances and finances to develop policies aiming at to maintain social stability and to develop infrastructure that are the foundation for strengthening peace process, development, respect of human rights and enhancing democracy in Cambodia. Indeed, from 1993, the Japanese government has provided a lot of assistance to fulfill real needs and invaluable benefits. All these supports provide a great potentiality for Cambodia to be able to strengthen and to expand its capacity to develop country towards progress. In this sense, taking this great opportunity I would like His Excellency FUMIAKI TAKAHASHI, Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia, to convey our high appreciation and gratitude to government and people of Japan that have always supported Cambodia in terms of technical assistance, equipments and finance, especially for this MWA’s new building which will be officially opened shortly.
In the last two terms, Cambodia has overcome many challenges as well as the rehabilitation and development of the nation after the three decades of protracted civil war. Internal conflicts for the past two decades have almost completely destroyed the basis of social infrastructure, culture, custom, tradition and national religion, especially human resources that is a major obstacle for nation development. As Her Excellency Ing Kantha Phavi has highlighted in her report that our country has moved one step forward to overcome those challenges by implementing series of activities to develop female human resources which is valuable and equal partnership with men in contributing to socio-economic development through cooperation and aid in term of building, including activities and projects to empower women in rural areas and female civil servants in different ministries and institutions. Those activities fully correspond with the Rectangular Strategy of the RG for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency, which recognized that “women are the backbone of economy and society“. RG will give a high priority to improve women’s role and social status by enhancing the implementation of strategy for gender equity, developing women’s capacity, changing social behavior of discrimination against women and ensuring women’s rights to actively and equally participate with men in rehabilitating and developing the country.
At the same time, I would like to recognize and highly appreciate the implementation of the national programme “Women as a Precious Stone-2“, which is continued from previous term and has emphasized on the development of women’s capacity as well as changing the behavior and perception regarding discrimination against women in society by reducing the gender gap between women and men in the participation in economic sector, education, access to health care, decision making and legal protection to give opportunity to women to be equally involved in family activities and society.
Moreover, I have noted that Ministry of Women Affairs, which is a direct mechanism in the implementation of RG policy programme, has made tremendous efforts and overcome all difficulties by conducting a series of important programs such as training the trainers to further train important officials in ministries/institutions, members of provincial, municipal, district, commune, village development committees regarding the gender issues, leadership, self confidence and also data gathering for analysis and policy preparation to respond to gender needs in all sectors. In this sense, I would like to sincerely appreciate the hard work of MWA as well as civil organizations for their cooperation to improve women’s status, which will contribute to poverty reduction. Eradicating violence in family and society, combating human trafficking, eliminating discrimination against women in society, increasing enrolment rate of girls, improving maternal and infant health are all our responsibility. Women’s problems are not the only burdens for females or MWA, but are joint responsibility of all sectors and institutions, including individual.
Indeed, as I have mentioned many times “helping women is to help ourselves” because women as our grandmothers, mothers and wives are the first teacher to provide us education and to take care of our children to become a person with virtue, moral, education and high position in the society. In this regards, every related ministry must cooperate with the MWA to change the society and to move towards equity and equality in providing opportunity, rights and benefits to women. Furthermore, this great work could only be successfully achieved if there would be close cooperation from every institution, community, NGOs, and the public, including supports in terms of donations and assistances from our development partners.
There are much more works remained to be done by RG to improve the status and well being of women in Cambodian society. Thus, it is vitally important to speed up the completion of a legal framework against women trafficking, the adoption of the law against domestic violence and the increase in number of women holding public office. The early decentralization experience has been considered as successful in particular in increasing women’s participation in decision-making at the grassroots level.
The RG is conscious that more works need to be done in Cambodia to achieve the creation of gender indicators and development objectives responding to the issues of gender equality in the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs). In this sense, I would like the MWA to promote the implementation of the following four priority programmes:
1. Converting and Expanding Women’s Development Center to Women’s Enterprises Center. RG recognizes the development of small enterprises is crucial to the achievement of broader development objectives, including poverty reduction and the empowerment of women. Especially, the slowdown in garment sector after 2005 will have considerable impact on female job seekers, as female workers of the garment industry represents about 90 percent of the workforce. To increase the employment opportunity for women workers, RG of third terms is making effort to reduce the cost of doing businesses to ensure Cambodian competitiveness in garment industry and to focuses attention to expand the source of growth by promoting agriculture and agro-industry sectors.
The Women’s Enterprises Centers will provide an integrated package of knowledge and skills, including provision of specialized skills, business training especially market research, linkages between small financial institutions and other supporting services, socio-cultural empowerment of women through literacy enhancement, instruction in health, nutrition, life skills, and personal and business counseling and support.
2. Expansion of Micro Credit Schemes. I would like the MWA to promote the expansion of micro credit schemes to micro financial institutions in order to finance women related activities, in particular of those who are living in rural areas.
3. Promote Better Nutrition. This initiative focuses on two priority areas: the nutritional status of infants and their mothers. A concentrated and sustained campaign is necessary to increase knowledge about breast-feeding and the nutritional status of women and children, as well as to change people’s attitudes toward the use of commonly available foods and nutritional intake.
4. Dormitories for Secondary School Girls. Better-educated women will help reduce poverty for the next Cambodian generation. Girls frequently have to travel and sometimes stay away from home in order to attend secondary schools. I would like to support the initiatives to build dormitories for students to provide training and support for those young females.
The programmes described above require financing. I would like to ask the MWA to exert their efforts to mobilize domestic resources and appeal to donors in order to successfully implement above mentioned projects.
Once again, on behalf of RGC, I would like to express profound gratitude to people of Japan, national and international organizations, and all management as well as staff of MWA that actively involve in rehabilitation and development of social sector in Cambodia, especially to promote women status in society and to play a core role in development of Cambodian economy and society in the present and future. At the same time, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all officials and civil servants of MWA for fulfilling their duties and responsibilities aiming at improving women status to be more recognized on national and international arenas. In conclusion, I wish you all Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the five gems of Buddhist Blessing. For the causes of economic and social development in Cambodia towards prosperity and progress in the future, I am pleased to declare the opening of the new building for the MWA from now on.