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

06 Mar 2018

Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it’ 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 Nick Beresford, UNDP Cambodia’s Country Director. “We believe that youth will challenge sex discrimination to ensure rising gender equality in Cambodia,” he added. 

According to the State of the World’s Fathers report [2], fathers’ involvement is linked to higher cognitive development and school achievement, better mental health for boys and girls, and lower rates of delinquency in sons. At the same time, good parenting of men makes them happier and healthier. This data indicates that men have a great role to play to achieve gender equality, which will ultimately benefit both women and men, and families and communities.

Public awareness campaigns targeting men and boys are important to tackle the social norms that legitimize gender inequality, women’s discrimination and male power and control.

One such programme ‘Leading the Way for Gender Equality’ is an initiative of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and Oxfam.

The programme works with universities, media, and social media users to shift sexist gender norms. It is partnering with media, the Club of Journalists and relevant stakeholders to implement the Media Code of Conduct for Violence Against Women, launched by the Women’s Affairs and Information ministries in June 2017. The programme plans to undertake two communication campaigns to prevent sexual harassment on campuses and to mobilize men and boys for gender equality. 


[1] Fulu, E., Warner, X., Miedema, S., Jewkes, R., Roselli, T. and Lang, J. (2013). Why Do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It? Quantitative Findings from the UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok: UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV.

[2] Heilman B, Levtov R, van der Gaag N, Hassink A, and Barker G (2017). State of the World’s Fathers: Time for Action. Washington, DC: Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice, Save the Children, and MenEngage Alliance.

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