Our Perspective

‘Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it’

06 Mar 2018

image Picture supplied by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia

This quote from Gloria Steinman, a renowned American feminist, has never been more relevant.  Males comprise almost half of the Cambodian population but still hold the vast majority of power in government and private sector. While the empowerment of women and girls, and addressing their needs and interests are key for the country’s socio-economic development, real gender equality cannot be achieved without involving the of 'privileged half' society​. Social attitudes in Cambodia favor men, and discriminate against women. Traditional gender norms for masculinity remain largely unchallenged and reinforce the notion that men should be strong leaders and protectors. A national survey undertaken by the United Nations in 2013​​ [1] with 2,000 Cambodian men and 600 Cambodian women found that 63 percent of males and 58 percent of females agreed that men should have the final say in all family matters, while 82 percent of males and 93 percent of females believed that a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for her family. “Many stereotypes that undermine women must change; there is a pressing need for men to share in domestic work such as caring for children and elders, and helping with household chores,” said  Read More

The Challenge of data collection: How many invisible persons with disabilities are there in Cambodia?

15 Dec 2017

image Kaat is telling her dream to be a hairdresser. Photo: UNDP Cambodia

On a humid afternoon in late August in Prey Basak village, Svay Rieng Province, I meet 15-year-old Kaat. The girl who lives with her family in a traditional wooden Khmer house is fulfilling her dreams: she is learning to become a hairdresser! What might seem somehow ordinary for most is extraordinary for her. Kaat is a person with disabilities. She has difficulty hearing and speaking. With support from the Disabled People’s Organization (DPO) in cooperation with the local government, she is now doing what she always desired. DPOs are organizations whose members are persons with disabilities. The organizations form a network to promote and ensure access to services for them. When I visited Prey Basak, I met around 15 persons with disabilities. This number struck me as considerably low: The head of the DPO there told me there were around 200 households in the village. The Population Research (2013) notes an average of 4.6 people per household in rural Cambodia. This makes me draw an estimate of around 900 people living in Prey Basak. And, according to World Bank and WHO, around 15% of the world’s population live with some sort of disability. Therefore, the number of persons with disabilities in  Read More

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: Middle income Cambodia's three poverty challenges

17 Oct 2017

image Cook stove production in Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia

When the poverty data for the current round of Cambodia’s Socio-Economic Survey (CSES) is published next year, it will almost certainly show a further decline on the 13½ per cent of the population living below the national poverty line in 2014. Based on past trends, the rate could be below 10 per cent. This would continue the dramatic pattern of decline established some two decades ago, when poverty affected a staggering 60% of the population. Over this period literally millions of Cambodians have been lifted out of poverty. The trends on the international dollar-a-day poverty line have been equally dramatic.    This is a real cause for celebration and marked Cambodia out as a global achiever. But as a newcomer to Cambodia, who has worked on poverty issues elsewhere in the world, I want to underline that this does not mean that poverty - the deprivation of human lives and livelihoods - is in terminal decline and should no longer figure as a policy priority. I want to argue rather, that Cambodia’s poverty problem is evolving, that this country faces a series of significant poverty challenges, and that these have become more complex. First and foremost, it is important to keep  Read More

Going Back To Our Roots: A ‘New’ Pilot Approach for Gender Equality in Cambodia

02 Oct 2017

image This image has been widely used by women's rights advocates all over the world since the 1980s for women's self empowerment, campaign promotion and advertising.

I wish I could write a story about the outstanding gains that women have made in any of the countries I have been visiting or working in. But, lately, due to the current global backlash against women, I face serious problems in identifying those wins. In the last decade, some success stories of women from different parts of the world describe how women have improved their position in society through strong determination and tireless work. One could think that we are on the right track to achieving gender equality. But let’s be honest, success stories that only reflect the reality of few female individuals are not real success stories. At least, not the real success stories we want to see and write about. Not the collective success story we are truly working for. When promoting gender equality in the context of international development, some appropriate strategic advice can (in the best-case scenario) result in policies and laws that are either specifically focused on reducing gender inequalities at hand, or that are more responsive to the needs of women. But a deep-rooted resistance to change still exists in the mindsets of many decision makers across countries. Even some of our own UN  Read More

Value chains and commodity prices: getting cassava out of the red and into the black

13 Sep 2017

image At the National Steering Committee on Cassava Ministry of Commerce, Phnom Penh 5 September 2017 (Photo: UNDP Cambodia)

Cassava farming was never for rich farmers.  But at least last year the average price for fresh root at farm was 3.5 cents (about 140 Riel) a kilo.  There was hope it would get back into profit at 4.4 cents.  It’s now down to 2.6 cents (about 100 Riel). So why do famers bother?  Part of the answer is the famers are in fact seasonal migrant workers, either inside the country or to the neighboring countries such as Thailand.  They leave the cassava in the ground for around 10 months to fetch what price it gets when they come home. Unlike rice, it doesn’t take much care during its growing period and cultivation. Low returns in the cassava sector are a serious problem. 80% of the population still lives in rural areas and Cassava is Cambodia’s largest agricultural export crop by weight after rice, so these commodity prices falls have had wide spread and serious effects. They have highlighted weaknesses in production, supply chain and exports. This makes the proposed development of a national Cassava policy all the more important.  It also can suggest ways in which we can turn challenges into opportunities. There are three possible areas where such opportunities  Read More

Youth, we have the capacity and potential to achieve peace

23 Aug 2017

image Photo: Athika Phuong

My name is Athika, a 22-year-old university student and a journalist. I am also a member of the Change Makers Regional Asia-Pacific and a representative of the 2030 Youth Force network in Cambodia. My dream is to see people living in peace, happiness and hope. Even though I come from a poor family, as a youth I persist in seeking peace for my society. By participating in different fields of social work, I try to show other young people that we have the capacity and potential to achieve peace. The youth delivers peace Social participation of young people is very important when we seek, build and maintain peace. According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than half of the Cambodian population is youth who are under 30 and are “active citizens” in the country’s development. I believe that if the youth could improve our capacity, we can be driving forces towards positive change. We can be the centre of the machine supporting the decision making that fuels development of our country. Some people may think that young people bring many troubles — but we also bring solutions. Thus, the government should provide more protection and opportunity for the youth. My concept of volunteerism Volunteering  Read More

A sustainable kitchen, for people and planet

21 Aug 2017

image A market at Siem Reap, Photo: UNDP Cambodia

We have a pretty good idea of what’s good for us to eat – even if we can’t always resist temptation.  But what’s good for the planet?  How do our food choices affect the world around us? Adaptive Farms, Resilient Table, is a cookbook with a difference.  It focuses on traditional dishes from six countries including Cambodia, and uses ingredients that are more resistant to climate change. The book, produced under the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility, introduces some Khmer classics such as Samla Kako (kako soup), Amok (steam curry) and Num Ansom Chek (steamed banana and sticky rice cakes). The recipes allow for variations based on locally available produce, making it possible to switch away from ingredients that have a high carbon footprint on account of being imported. It’s not just climate change that is changing what we put on our table.  In 2012 World Bank study showed that the numbers of people living in poverty are falling in both absolute and relative terms in every continent of the world. This is probably the greatest piece of good news no-one has heard about. In the next 20 years, we expect the size of the global middle class to triple to  Read More

Why fisher folk are planting trees

17 Aug 2017

image Mr. SAO Theang, Head of of Chumpu Khmao Community Fishery, Preynub District

Cambodia’s new Environmental Codes and power of collaborative management Sao Theang steers his boat through the waters in and around the mangrove forest of Preynub, close to Sihanouk Ville on the Cambodian coast. It’s beautiful scenery and Theang tells us he hopes tourist numbers will start to pick up. As the Head of Chumpu Khmao Community Fishery, he and his community already make a good living from shrimp, fish, mussels and other plentiful aquaculture. But now the community is actively engaged in growing and protecting their own mangrove trees. Why are these fisher folk planting trees? Using tidal water flows and square blocks of natural mangrove, maximizes the yields of valuable shrimp, fish and mussels. The mangrove forest adds to the beauty of the area: a plus for tourism.  The community works closely with the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, Ministry of Environment and the local Commune, fostering a thriving business for the community, and effective environmental protection of a valuable forest. This week, the Ministry of Environment continued consultations on new legislation: the Environmental Codes. In a sign of how seriously these codes are being taken by Government, the consultations were led by the Minister, H.E.  Read More

Will dreams come true?

15 Jul 2017

image The rural family of Ms. Prak Thavy whose two older daughters are unemployed and her younger daughter, age 13, is a student who has talent for math and Khmer and wishes to become a teacher in the future.

When young people transition into the world of work, it’s a critical time—for young people themselves, their families, and Cambodian society. Cambodia’s economic success means young people have more hope and better prospects for the future. But what does it take for young people to succeed at work and in life? I’ve researched this and other questions about young people over the past several years. A recent survey on school-to-work transition by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) gives a curious picture of youth employment. About three-fourths of young people aged 15 to 29 are employed. However, many of them are in vulnerable or poor-quality employment, are under-qualified for their jobs, or work excessively long hours. In addition, many young Cambodians have to enter the labour market early and don’t have the necessary skills and education. Obviously, young people from wealthier families often end up with better incomes and job conditions. About 90 per cent of youth say they are “satisfied” with their current job, but at the same time half of them say they intend to change for a better paid job. Cambodians see education as a major means to securing upward social mobility. Educational opportunities, from primary to post-secondary level,  Read More

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