Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keynote Address at the 99th Anniversary of the International Women’s Day on 8th March 2009

Chaktomuk Conference Hall, 06th March 2009

Distinguished National and International Guests,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today, my wife and I are extremely delighted to join the 99th Anniversary of the International Women’s Day on 8th March to commemorate women’s concerted efforts to overcome various barriers to promote their rights, status, role and welfare. This event also represents a great opportunity to assess and discuss the progress of women’s rights to politics and socio-economic affairs as well as legal protection to enable them to live happily and prosperously. This ceremony also allows us to steer more attention to promote women as a priceless asset for national development. Moreover, this day attests to our joint determination to realize the above mentioned objectives.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank and extend my warmest welcome to Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen who participate in this ceremony, especially H.E. Mrs. Eung Kanthaphavy, the Minister of Women’s Affairs for delivering a report about women’s progress to give us with basic knowledge and understanding that allows us to promote gender equality and women’s value in general. Along with this, I highly appreciate the efforts made by Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen to accomplish this job and I strongly support the topic and priority action plan introduced by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for the 99th Anniversary of the International Women’s Day, which focuses on “Women’s Participation in Economic Development and Social Affairs”. Indeed, this topic is related and directly responds to the women’s participation in promoting sustainable growth.

On behalf of the Royal Government and on my own behalf, I am satisfied with women’s encouraging progress in the field of economy, society and politics. It should be noted that our assessment of gender equality in Cambodia, the notion of “Equal Share for Women” clearly indicates the progress of gender equality and the mainstreaming of various programs and activities to promote women’s rights in the national policy and reform programs of the Royal Government. Moreover, the National Strategic Development Plan fully acknowledges the benefit of gender mainstreaming in all sectors and promoting women’s rights and participation in national development. Along with this, the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals, the Framework of Decentralization and Deconcentration Reform Program, the Law on Administrative Management of Capital, Municipality, Province, District and Khan, the Public Financial Management Reform and the Public Administration Reform all refer to promoting gender equality. Specifically, in the decentralization and deconcentration reform program, the Royal Government gives special attention to increasing women’s proportion in all levels of councils and commissions evidenced by the establishment of the Advisory Council for Gender Equality, Women and Children’s Status to ensure that work plans and budget for sub-national levels receive the proper attention and respond to the promotion of gender equality, women and children. The second stage of the Public Financial Management Reform requires all ministries/institutions to provide detailed explanation on the costs and benefits for men and women in the proposed budget plans and allocation of budget before submitting to the Ministry of Economy and Finance for review. In particular, in the Public Administration Reform, when a ministry or institution recruits new officials, women are encouraged to apply.

Moreover, all related ministries/institutions have established their own mechanisms and strategies to mainstream gender equality into sectoral strategic plans. In the education sector, the number of new male and female enrolment is increasing; gender inequality in the education sector and illiteracy rate amongst female adults has been scaled down; the numbers of males and females aged 20 and below going to school are nearly identical; child, maternal and reproductive and primary health has also been improved. Along with this, the Royal Government has increased the number of women development centers to provide training programs and information about entrepreneurship and promote women’s standard of living through increased income.

At the same time, the Royal Government has encouraged women’s participation in leadership and decision making at the sub-national levels, evidenced by the appointment of women as deputy governors in the municipalities, provinces, districts and khans while the number of women participation in commune councils has also increased significantly, i.e. a 30% increase. We should also note that the proportion of female members of the parliament increased by 22% in 2008, female members of the commune councils increased by 15% in 2007 out of which the increase of CPP’s female members in commune councils represent the highest share, that is 60% increase between 2002 and 2007.

Also, the Royal Government is pushing hard for the adoption of laws to protect women. As a result, we have adopted a series of laws to protect women’s rights and made amendment to the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and Victims Protection and the Law on Anti-Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. The Royal Government has established working groups at the national level to fight trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children to reduce violence against women, which still remains at all levels of society and around the world. Violence, exploitation, and discrimination against women and children represent a big challenge for the whole society, a violation of the National Constitution which recognizes human rights, and a major cause that blocks women’s participation in development process. These can negatively impact families, the community, and the whole society in terms of economy, safety, and welfare.

In particular, we still face a number of challenges including the higher rate of male students’ enrolment rate compared to females’; the drop out rate of female students in secondary and higher education is still high; most of female adults are illiterate or have received little education; women have limited access to healthcare; income gap between women and men still exists; and the presence of women in political leadership of the government or private institutions need to be improved. Moreover, the preventive measures and penalty being imposed on criminals involving rape, sexual harassment, trafficking and exploitation of women and children and domestic violence have not been adequate and these issues remain a major concern for the Royal Government and all of us and require immediate solutions.

Like the previous mandates, The Royal Government in the 4th Legislature has always clearly recognized that the gender issue can not be solved separately as it is closely related to the poverty reduction and it is also the core of development and the key to improve the wellbeing of women and their families. The Royal Government is continue to be committed in promoting gender equity to achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development by continuing to make vigorous consideration about its impact on women and children and put forward the solution and strategic intervention in every process of various policy preparations. Practically, the Royal Government has been implementing policy on women capacity building by increasing opportunities for female students to education through increasing scholarships, training programs at the educational institutions, providing appropriate dormitories and ensuring safety of female students as well as increasing the number of female teachers, enhancing the roles of women in decision making by trying to maximize the proportion of women participation within the national and sub-national institutions.

In fact, we have achieved a great deal of achievements so far, but we must put further efforts, in which the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and other relevant institutions either public or private sectors, civil societies and various stakeholders, are required to strengthen their cooperation in implementing the Rectangular Strategy-Phase II of the Royal Government and other programs in order to attain additional new achievements. In sum, we have to jointly build a society with extensive participation and ensure a provision of equal shares amongst women and men in socio-economic development with sustainability, equity and justice. Along with that, I would like to recommend all relevant Ministries/Institutions to strengthen the law enforcement, especially law on anti-human trafficking, sexual exploitation, law on domestic violence and victim protection etc. These issues have to be urgently addressed due to the fact that recently there have been some brutal cases of rape and murder happening in a number of provinces/municipalities in which I also suggest the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, local authorities and relevant institutions at the national and sub-national levels to effectively strengthen their roles and duties in order to prevent and eliminate the culture of violence, especially toward women and children in an attempt to contribute to the implementation of the Royal Government’s policy, which is committed to protecting the rights and interest as well as to improve the welfare of the people and society as a whole.

Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government I would like to totally support the policy, strategy and action plan of the NEARY RATANAK-III of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the strategic planning of mainstreaming gender into certain sectors of relevant Ministries/Institutions to urge women’s participation in socio-economic development and in political affairs with potential, efficiency, equity and justice. I strongly believe that through the sharp effort made by relevant Ministries/Institutions in implementing the above programs, it will gradually improve the status of gender equity and wellbeing of women and children, which will rapidly promote the sustainable socio-economic development.

Once again, during the 99th Anniversary of the International Women’s Day on 8 March today, I would like to appreciate and highly evaluate the leadership and all levels of officials working in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and relevant ministries, who have made greatest effort to fruitfully achieve the implementation of the Royal Government’s gender mainstreaming strategy, which regards women as the “backbone” to support the sustainable socio-economic development. The join efforts with high sense of patience and responsibility of the leadership of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and relevant institutions in solving various issues aiming to promote the capacity, ability and increase the opportunity of women to participate intensively in the development process, preventing domestic violence and sexual exploitation, are the reflection of strong will of the Royal Government in implementing the national policies, laws, and especially the international conventions on the “elimination in all forms of discrimination against women”.

I would like to take this opportunity to deeply thank the development partners, civil societies, non-governmental organizations, who are now working on the improvement of the rank and role of women in the field of economy, education, health, in protecting the victims of domestic violence and human trafficking or other sectors related to the socio-cultural development in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Finally, May I wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, especially all women and their families the Four Gems of Buddhist Blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength hereinafter.


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