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Why we need more female leaders in Cambodia

Since 2000, the number of women worldwide who are represented in government has increased from 14 per cent to 22 per cent. Global Goal 5 aims to increase this number to 50 per cent by 2030, and finally achieve gender parity. To mark International Women`s Day, we spoke to girls and women in Cambodia about why female leadership is so important.

In Cambodia, women now represent 10 per cent of all elected councillors at the national and provincial levels, and 13 per cent at municipal and district levels. In communities, more females now fill the positions of commune chief and deputy chief than ever before. But like many other countries around the world, equal representation has not yet been achieved.

Len, age 13, says: “I want 20 more female leaders for my village. Right now there are about 10. I want more because females are smarter now. They can get involved and care about our country. I think they will do more to improve and develop our country in tourism.”

To ensure that the rights of women are upheld in rural communities, ChildFund Cambodia implements a range of programs to help girls and young women realise their full potential. A priority is making sure that females have the same access to basic services as their male peers,“ both education and healthcare.

ChildFund works in partnership with local communities to increase school enrolment rates for girls, and also encourages young women to participate in youth and women`s groups. Peer education activities give girls a valuable opportunity to learn from their older peers, and the chance to impart knowledge to younger generations. Strong, female role models play an important part in encouraging new generations of women, as Pholika explains: “In my village, one female teacher at the school has just become the principal. When I see women become leaders in my village, I support them deeply. I want to be a leader one day.”

Vocational training facilitated by ChildFund gives young women the opportunity to develop new skills and improve their ability to contribute economically. ChildFund Cambodia helps young women to develop business plans, offers start-up loans, and works with local women`s groups to establish savings and loans schemes, which allow women to continue growing their businesses, and improving living standards for families.

Saran, age 45, says: “If I was a leader I would want to develop my village even faster, especially in agriculture. I want to develop chicken farming, to grow a greater number of farms. Lots of chickens die due to our poor technology and methods. I also want to change the environment of the village by growing more rice for selling, which will improve our economy.”

ChildFund also facilitates life skills and leadership training – which focus on issues specific to women. At ChildFund, we believe every girl and woman should have the right to be participate in community life, and have a say on issues of importance to them. Life skills training means more girls and women have an opportunity to be heard.

Chetra, age 18, says: “I want more females to be leaders because they understand women’s situations and problems. Most of the time male leaders don`t really listen to women`s problems. By having more female leaders, our community will develop even more and we will all be closer.”

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