Country Snapshot

Cambodia is a country emerging from conflict. The past decade has seen the government, civil society and international agencies work hard to advance the well being of Cambodians. However, women continue to face serious challenges. Many of women’s most pressing concerns in Cambodia relate to poverty and its impact on women. Frequent pregnancies and a high rate of maternal mortality are problems, and women’s difficulties accessing education and skills training are also obstacles to advancement. Women’s illiteracy hovers around 80%, while men’s is estimated to be about 40%. Domestic violence, though thought to be underreported, is widespread. Physical violence and economic hardship make women vulnerable to trafficking and exploitative prostitution. As both a receiving and sending country, Cambodia is a major centre in the regional sex trade.

The 1993 Constitution guarantees civil liberties and fundamental rights, including equality between men and women, equal employment opportunities for women, maternity benefits, and the equal right to vote. The Ministry for Women’s Affairs has been in existence since 1995 and includes nine departments, each covering specific sectors such as social action, education and training, and economic development. The Ministry has established Women in Development Centres in all of Cambodia’s 20 provinces.

Government institutions in Cambodia, including its women’s rights machinery is relatively new. The women’s NGOs in the country are comparatively well organised, working on specific issues, namely violence against women and trafficking. However, many need to enhance their capacity to full use CEDAW or the rights framework in their work. The programmatic thrust in Cambodia relates to building the foundation for realising women’s human rights through CEDAW implementation and monitoring at the level of the state and the civil society. The NGO activities focus on how best to use CEDAW in general as well as in particular substantive areas - violence against women and trafficking and for advocacy with government to ratify the Optional Protocol - with an emphasis on infusing the norms and provisions of CEDAW into the existing work.



International Expert Leads High Level Anti-Discrimination Forum for Royal Government of Cambodia

On the 27th February 2009, the Cambodian National Council for Women (CNCW) hosted a high level forum to enhance government knowledge of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The forum is in preparation for Cambodia’s combined 4th and 5th periodic report to the CEDAW Committee in November 2009.

The forum was lead by Ms Mary Shanthi Dairiam, an international CEDAW expert who served on the UN CEDAW Committee from January 2004 to December 2008. The CEDAW Committee, a Treaty Body composed of 23 experts on women's human rights issues from around the world, is responsible for watching over the progress made for women in those countries that are State parties to the Convention. Having ratified CEDAW in 1992, Cambodia is obliged to report to the Committee on national action taken to improve the situation of women every four years.  Read more   

Royal Government of Cambodia takes important steps to improve CEDAW reporting and compliance

The Royal Government of Cambodia is preparing its 4th and 5th periodic report to the CEDAW Committee at the end of 2009. In an effort to increase capacity within government and to improve implementation of CEDAW Committee recommendations from 2006, the Ministry of Justice recently held a series of UNIFEM supported workshops to assess Cambodia’s National Law Compliance with CEDAW.

The workshops provided delegates with a theoretical framework for drafting and analyzing national laws in terms of the scope, substantive content and effective monitoring and implementation mechanisms as prescribed by the Convention. Participants developed fundamental skills to establish a benchmarking process for monitoring Cambodia’s level of compliance and facilitating reform where necessary. These workshops are a pioneering example amongst ASEAN countries of good practice in CEDAW implementation. Read more

More women elected in Cambodia’s local government election  

The number of women elected to local government seats in Cambodia’s commune election on 1 April 2007 has increased by two-fold, due to strong advocacy efforts of the Committee to Promote Women in Political Participation (CPWP). CPWP is a network of leading women NGOs in Cambodia.

In the first commune election of 2002 when UNIFEM also supported capacity-building and advocacy efforts, eight per cent of the elected 11,352 commune councilors were women. In 2007, the figure doubled to 14.58 per cent. The result is significant as women in Cambodia are under-represented in leadership and decision-making due to the low status of women in Cambodian society.

Electing women as commune councilors reflects the important role that women play in the national and community development as they are more likely to address pressing social problems that Cambodia faces like health, education, gender-based violence, discrimination and community-building.

With support from UNIFEM and other donors, CPWP targeted their efforts at voters’ education, capacity-building for women candidates, and convincing three major political parties in Cambodia to place women candidates in winnable top slots. UNIFEM's support of CPWP was with funding from CIDA and the UN Democracy Fund.

Development of Training Materials on CEDAW and Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals

August 2006 – January 2007


UNIFEM and SILAKA are jointly developing a core set of training materials on CEDAW and Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Aimed at raising awareness on CEDAW, deemed the international bill of rights for women, and on the Cambodian government’s commitment under the Millennium Development Goals, the project aims at making these treaties accessible through training materials in simple Khmer language aided by visual presentations. An English version will also be made available. These training materials will promote the standards and goals set out in CEDAW and the MDGs as frameworks for achieving gender equality within the Cambodian context. The training materials will be used by the government and civil society organisations at both national and local levels. In addition, these materials will form part of the tool to train the trainers in a second phase of the project. Follow-up activities such as pilot testing of the modules and the resource pool training are planned for 2007.

Baseline survey on domestic violence in Cambodia
March 9, 2005

Violence against women is one of the most widespread and serious problems of Cambodian society. The Cambodian Millennium Development Goals commits the Government to collecting statistics on domestic violence, raising the awareness of Cambodians about domestic violence as a crime, and increasing the proportion of cases counseled by qualified personnel.

In line with these goals, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in partnership with the GTZ’s Project Promotion of Women’s Rights, the East West Management Institute-Human Rights in Cambodia Project and UNIFEM’s CEDAW program, has commissioned a baseline survey on domestic violence in Cambodia. The study, conducted by Cambodia-based Indochina Research, is specifically designed to provide evidence to support legislation due to be considered by the Cambodian government in April 2005 and inform initiatives to strengthen law enforcement and service provision at the local level for women experiencing violence. The findings are due to be reported in April 2005 and will also be made available on the UNIFEM site.

International Women’s Day 2005
Inauguration of the “A Fair Share for Women”
March 7, 2005

The Ministry of Women Affairs (MOWA) of Cambodia organized the activities to launch the Fair Share for Women: the Cambodian Gender Assessment and Policy Brief, a comprehensive study on women’s situation in Cambodia at the Chatomuk Theatre, Phnom Penh, on 7 March 2005. During the launch, a call was made for decision-makers to make policies more gender responsive and to start taking serious actions.