Financing Cambodia's Gender Equality Goals
07 Mar 2017
Today, as we observe the International Women’s Day, let us look back at how far we have come and look forward to how we can overcome the remaining challenges together.
Cambodia has undeniably made good progresses toward its gender equality goals in several areas, in addition to the improvement of legal framework, policies, and national plans to protect and improve the status of women and girls. For instance, girls’ access to education has improved, as reflected in the sharp contrast between female youth’s literacy rate and that of the old generations born before the Khmer Rouge regime. The number of female members of parliament and female local councillors has also increased, and Cambodian women’s participation rate in the workforce is among the highest in Asia.
These progresses have been made despite limited funding from both state and foreign development assistance, that has always been low compared to other sectors.
For instance, an analysis of the 2014 Official Development Assistance (ODA) undertaken by UNDP, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC) reveals that out of a total ODA resource envelope of US$1.5 billion disbursed in 2014, projects with gender as a principal sector represented only 0.5 percent of total ODA (approximately $6.6 million). Of this amount, less than $2 million is managed by MoWA. Projects with gender as a thematic marker wherein gender is a component in a project, represented 18 percent of total ODA (approximately $250 million). These figures show that other development projects worth $1.2 billion (82 percent of ODA) are not gender mainstreamed.
National budget allocated to gender work has also remained limited. In 2014, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs received $7.9 million or 0.23 percent of the total national budget of $3.4 billion. In 2017, while in volume, the national budget allocation was gradually increased to $12.6 million, there was a slight increase to 0.25 percent of the total budget of $5 billion.
Just last year, while Cambodia has a reason to celebrate after its economic status was re-classified as Lower-Middle Income Country, this new status also means a gradual reduction in foreign development assistance in volume and as a percentage of GDP in the years to come. This emerging situation and the possible reduction of financial assistance poses a new set of challenges for the work toward gender equality and the improvement of women’s status, let alone the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Whereas funding is crucial to achieve the gender equality objectives and other SDGs’ targets, funding shortage is not a problem per se. Instead, the problem is that the fund is not sufficiently mobilized to implement gender related programs, according to Professor Diane Elson. Hence, to reach SDGs’ targets and to fulfill other existing gender equality commitments in the midst of this changing development finance landscape, it requires an innovative and well-coordinated effort between MoWA, other state institutions, development partners, private sector, and civil society organizations to align their programs to national priorities, to mobilize and pull together both financial resources and technical expertise, and to make systematic gender mainstreaming in their other development projects with sufficient funds allocated.