Chak Sopheap, Executive Director, Cambodian Center for Human Rights
A great deal of engagement and high expectations of Sweden marked the second Democracy Talks hosted by the Embassy in Phnom Penh on 25 May. The theme was gender equality, and representatives of six civil society organisations took part in the digital discussion.
The civil society organisations involved were the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), Silaka, Klahaanm, Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) and Diakonia. Despite attempts to achieve a gender balance among participants, this was not possible for the external participants – five out of six of whom were women. This in itself illustrates one challenge for gender equality work in Cambodia: involving more men.
The external participants conveyed the message that there is still a great deal to do to achieve gender equality in Cambodia. Political support for gender mainstreaming in legislation and policy is necessary, and more people need to talk about and demand this change. LGBTI issues also have to be given more space in gender equality work, and the private sector needs to be engaged more in gender equality efforts. Issues concerning harmful masculinity norms have to be raised and gender-based violence needs to be combated more effectively. Sweden’s engagement is important and should preferably be strengthened. Sweden’s voice is needed within the UN in the field, in work with cooperation and development partners, and in dialogue with the government.
For the Embassy – both generally and in terms of development cooperation – the discussion provided an update of the gender equality situation in Cambodia, a number of ideas for what to investigate more closely in future work, and a clear signal about the expectations of Sweden as a driving force for gender equality.
Written by: Björn Häggström and Kajsalisa Pohl
In the photo: Chak Sopheap, Executive Director, Cambodian Center for Human Rights.