Samdech, Excellencies, Your Royal Highness, Lok Oknha, Ladies, Gentlemen,
Beloved Students and Fellow Participants,
Today, I and my wife are very delighted to attend the auspicious celebration of the 105th Anniversary of the March 08 International Women’s Day. This important event is organized under the theme of “Investment on Gender Equality for Sustainable Development” in parallel with my key talking points delivered at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) being held at the United Nations Headquarter in New York on September 27, 2015. This topic also responds to the new global development framework being adopted by Word Leaders as the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to promote economic growth, make peace and narrow the gap between rich and poor countries in order to increase social welfare and protect earth and natural resource sustainably and effectively for the next generations.
In this spirit, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has played a vital role as facilitator and advocate to encourage public institutions, civil society, and private sectors to streamline gender into their institutions’ policies and programs. Moreover, we have to streamline gender issues into the related ministries-institutions to enable them to have enough capacity to ensure gender equity and equality in each sector, and sub-national level has to have mechanism to address women’s issues as well. At the same time, the Cambodian National Council for Women has to continue monitoring on implementation of law, policy, and other programs related to the elimination of discrimination against women, as well as in response on the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
In general, the Royal Government of the Fifth Legislature of the National Assembly has been implementing the Rectangular Strategies for growth, employment, equity and efficiency in order to ensure political stability, security, and social order, aimed at improving the people’s standard of living. At the same time, the Royal government has paid high attention to vulnerable groups, especially women and children by adopting and implementing Law on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (LPPRPD), Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities (PECD), National Policy for the Elderly (NPE), and the promotion of culture, tradition, national identity and environmental protection issues.
Starting with strengthening the quality of education and promotion of learning, we have made good progress in promoting gender equality in education through increasing enrolment rate in both primary and secondary level, along with the reduction of maternal and child mortality rate as well as the reduction of HIV/AIDS widespread. Moreover, the Royal Government of Cambodia has promoted the engagement of women in political affairs and decision-makers at all national institutions and levels through increasing number of women to take roles and positions in all important institutions at all levels. It is the fact that the number of women taking role as the members of the National Assembly has increased from 6% in 1993 to 20% in 2013. Between 2008 and 2013, the women taking position as a minister have increased from 7% to 11%, as Secretary of State from 8% to 21% and as the Under Secretary of State from 15% to 18%. Furthermore, the percentage of women elected as the members of Commune Councils has also increased, from 15% in 2007 to 18% in 2012. As a result, we could see that women gain more opportunity to strengthen their ownership, help support their respective family economy status, improve the standard of living and expand their respective participatory opportunities.
Going forward, I strongly agree with the report raised by Her Excellency Ing Kantha Phavi, minister of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, that while many achievements have made, much issues remain to be done to address those issues as follows: (1). Budget to implement the strategic plan to streamline the gender issues into ministries and institutions is still limited, and some development partners still hesitate to incorporate their budget into the national budget, (2). violence against women and girls, especially rapes and murders, mostly committed by youth boys due to degradation of social morality, lack of awareness on the value of women, discrimination against women and tendency toward materialism, and the wrong uses of technology and social network, as well as other problems related to drug use and gambling still pose great concerns, (3). another problem is that women expose to high risk as the majority of women are engaging in working in informal economy. In agriculture sector, the majority of female entrepreneurs run in small and medium enterprises in the condition of improperly organized, (4). The participation of women in decision making and politics still suffers from all form of discrimination. In addition, the a lack of sufficient financial resource, family support and political party support and employee support in workplace as well as burden of household chores and the lack of confidence remains , and (5). Gender inequality in education at high school and tertiary level is still a challenge, which could affect the economic opportunity of the women, particularly related to obtaining education, skills and new technology.
Indeed, remaining important challenges require us to jointly address them to move Cambodia forward and be in line with key talking points that I raised at the at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) at the United Nations on the 27th August, 2015 in New York as follows:
1st, Increasing investment on the promotion of gender equality, particularly through reviewing fiscal policy to create and increase public expenditure package for the promotion of gender equality as well as examining the drawback of public expenditure on gender equality through creating gender responsive program budgeting;
2nd, Ensuring the protection of women’s rights and full and equal participation of women at all decision-making level;
3rd, Strengthening accountability mechanism for gender equality through strengthening institutional capacity and using effective mean to monitor the progress of activities and ensure adequate gender role;
4th, Promoting the participation of women in Economy and Finance sector through raising conceptual understanding of business development module for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) development operated and led by women and create programs that can enable women to be equipped with new technical skills, entrepreneurship, and financial Service.
To translate the above commitments into actions, I would like to lay emphasis on key action plans that must be the focus on the implementation as follows:
First, relevant Ministries-Institutions must incorporate the agreed activities into the action plan of the Neary Rattanak IV and also integrate the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women into their respective strategic budget plan, so that budget has to be allocated effectively implement and monitor it;
Second, when the budget strategic plan and annual budget is prepared, the Ministry of Economy and Finance should instruct all ministries-institutions to define output and outcome indicators, reflecting benefits that Women and vulnerable person will obtain;
Third, Civil society organizations and development partners should develop your respective action plans to be in line with the National Development Strategic Plan, the Neary Rattanak IV and the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women, especially the overall program management approach for gender equality that was set out by the Royal government;
Fourth, Political Parties should post female candidate in a rank that can be elected, especially in the coming Commune/Sangkat and general election;
Fifth, Related ministries-institutions should further provide training and build capacity for women through strengthening the quality of education, particularly providing education to young women and girls to further improve economic status for women and effectively strengthen the relationship between parents and institutions;
Sixth, Youths should strongly concentrate on your study, adhere to social morality and apply knowledge, skills and experiences to increase productivity to get job with high value added that is able to compete with others in the regional market to conform with the recent ASEAN integration context in order to gain benefit for themselves, their families, communities and society;
Seven, Private sectors should continue contributing to promote gender equality and flexible work-life balance and cooperate with related ministries-institutions to take measures to create favorable working environment and condition for women.
[Impromptu Comments Begins]
Reply to Request Concerning Financial Supports for Wives and Children of Royal Government Officials and Armed Forces
I have one issue that I wish to bring up today. Last night, a young lady, I did not check her profile, made comment to my Facebook account about financial supports for wives and children of Royal Government officials and the armed forces. I am so impressed and thank her for making that opinion heard to us in her message saying: “may uncle think about this issue and I will wait for your answer tomorrow.” I then called HE Aun Porn Moniroth, Minister of Economy and Finance, about this issue. After a while, he then telegrammed me a solution. I responded to the comment that “I already brought the issue to the attentions of the Ministers of Economy and Finance, and Public Functions. They will work out a solution. If we cannot resolve the issue this year, we will definitely do it in 2017.” As you may know that this year, we already made financial commitments and distributions. However, I hope that we would be able to set aside certain portion as presents for wives and children of the Royal Government officials and armed forces during the Khmer Phjum Ben day, for instance. In 2017, the salary will surely increase.
As for wives, the number would not be very big because some of our officials are widows. However, number of children is big that we would have to make a sound judgment on how to cover expenses. At the same time, salary of officials and armed forces are to increase in a few days to come in April. I consider that I have responded to comment in my Facebook page and I wish to reaffirm that I have accepted with satisfaction the comment. The Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as members of the Royal Government of Cambodia will surely work on a new budget next year to incorporate increase financial support for wives and children of the Royal Government officials and armed forces.
Between Women and Men – There Must Be Harmony
I also wish to take this opportune moment of the International Women’s Day perhaps to remind you of some of men’s rights. My demand is not extreme. No one can make a sound without a clap of two hands. With one hand, no one can make a sound. Relation is bicameral. There must be harmony and accordance to and from one another. When there is absence of or unstable response from one side, relation would be upset. I heard that some women now have even locked husbands home. They would not allow husbands to join wedding party for fear that they would run their eyes on other girls. They even left home without informing their husbands. There must be mutual understanding from either side or relation would crash leading to family conflict. Patience plays very important role in obtaining understanding.
Well, getting back to issue of financial support of wives and children of the Royal Government officials and armed forces, we seem to have neglected. In 2014, we increased them but never did so in 2015 and 2016. Amazingly, this issue is ignored while we have female officials holding positions of Secretary of State and Under Secretary of State in Economy and Finance, in Public Functions. I am thanking comments came into my Facebook page. However, since we have to take expenses and incomes into consideration that is how much I could respond today. We cannot afford to spend all ten that we earn but save at least one or half to maintain surplus for investment. That is how we control our budget and exercise macro-economic management.
[Impromptu Comments Ends]
In this spirit, I believe that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, relevant ministries-organizations, private sector, civil society organizations, development partners and national and international organizations will further make concerted efforts to provide supports and improve status, standards of living, rights, position, and role of women, provide more supports and transform the theme of the “ Investment on Gender Equality for Sustainable Development “ into the real actions so that Cambodia can achieve inclusive and sustainable development.
Before ending, on behalf of the Royal Government and Cambodian people, my wife and I would like to wish Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, and His Majesty the King Preah Bat Samdech Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the strength of health and long live in order to be the shade for Cambodian people all over the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Finally, I would like to wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Distinguished guests and all participants the Four Gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness, and Strength./.