Remarks by Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Cambodia Country Director at National Forum on Women’s Leadership in the Public Sector and Politics

Dec 14, 2015

National Forum on Women's Leadership in the Public Sector and Polictics 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


H.E. ING Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs,

H.E. Sak Setha, Secretary of State, Ministry of the Interior, Head of the Secretariat of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD-S),

H.E. KHIM Chamroeun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Women’s Affairs,

H.E. Troeung Thavy, Cambodian Women’s Caucus, and

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my great pleasure to be with you on the occasion of the National Forum on Women’s Leadership in the Public Sector and Politics.  I would like to congratulate the government’s foresight in attaching importance to this agenda and it is timely to discuss women’s leadership to ensure Cambodia’s inclusive and sustainable growth.

Cambodia has made remarkable progress in terms of economic growth, poverty reduction, and CMDGs. Cambodia is going through a demographic bonus period. That means that the share of the working age population (15 to 64 years) is larger than the non-working age share of the population.  The larger share of the work force in the population is expected to contribute to a more vibrant economy and generate national revenue.  The demographic bonus period is also considered an important period to put systems in place – public services, laws, and institutions -- to prepare for the later period of a graying population with a higher dependency rate. This period presents itself only once during a development pathway and it can provide a foundation for future development. Most developing countries have a short window of opportunity to enact policies and promote investments that raise the human capital of young people while positioning them for greater economic productivity. In the case of Cambodia, it is expected that the demographic bonus period will last up to around 2038.

As you know, in my home country, Japan, the population is graying rapidly and economic growth has slowed down.  Neglecting women’s employment and not providing greater public support for their continuous employment and equal job opportunities and wages, as well as more social support for working mothers, has cost the nation part of an important labor force for the economy.

Putting systems in place is not limited to investment in infrastructure, but also includes social architecture and foundations - such as social protection and gender equality. That is why I commend your foresight to discuss gender equality and women’s participation in decision making in this Forum.

Cambodian women still lag behind men in terms of income, educational attainment, and labor participation rates.  Women in Cambodia remain under-represented in the Parliament, the public sector and the judiciary.  And while responding to these gender inequality challenges require a collaboration across different ministries at all levels of government, as well as with parliament and civil society, the situation is less clear when it comes to accountability for the achievement of gender mainstreaming.

Let me then turn to the steps for placing systems in place for gender equality. I believe that there are three steps: First, to develop strategy and set a direction; Second, to institutionalize the strategy through laws, decrees, institutions and monitoring systems with meaningful measurements; and Third, to empower both men and women to implement the plans that will institutionalize the strategy.

·         The Government of Cambodia  has taken several concrete steps to increase gender equality and advance the position of women in decision-making, through several important strategies and policies, namely:  the Rectangular Strategy, National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP), National Program for Sub-National Democratic Development 2010-2019 (NP-SNDD) and most concretely through the launching of  Neary Rattanak IV last year  (2014-2018). Thus the first steps are now completed.

·         The next challenge is how to institutionalize the strategy and put it into systems, institutions, and regular practice. One way is to make the “whole-of-government” accountable to implement and realize these policies and strategies by translating them into laws, regulations, and programs that make a difference in the lives of Cambodian women. This includes mainstreaming gender priorities into ministry budgets and development partners’ programs. Thus, systems of governance have either to be strengthened or established to ensure that policy commitments in the Neary Rattanak are met by every ministry. I would also like to propose putting in place a transparent monitoring system so that all of us can see the progress of each ministry for further discussions at the parliament.

·         With regard to the third step on empowerment, many women leaders in this room will be key to translating the strategy into action. You have succeeded in achieving position, authority, and independence, and you have a voice. People will listen to you, and pay attention to what you say. It is your duty, responsibility and privilege to use that voice for voiceless people, particularly voiceless women.

UNDP, UN Women, and UN agencies are committed to strengthening and to creating mechanisms that foster women’s leadership in the public sector. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Women Affairs and the Cambodian National Council for Women (CNCW) in carrying out this important task.  In this connection, the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and SDG 16, on governance, should provide a powerful vehicle towards our joint efforts.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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