Ministry of Women’s Affairs

Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Photo taken from the Ministry’s Facebook Page, taken on 17 September 2016.

Establishment

Under Royal Decree No. NS/RKM/0197/22, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was formally established on 24 January 1996. The Ministry became the Ministry of Women and Veteran’s Affairs under the Royal Decree No. NS/KRM/0999/10 signed on 18 September 1999. In 2005 the Ministry became the Ministry of Women’s Affairs again under Royal Decree No. NS/RKM/0105/002, signed on 17 January 2005.

As the national agency to promote and empower women, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs leads, coordinates, and facilitates efforts towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in Cambodia. The Ministry acts as a catalyst and advocates for integrating gender equity policies and programs across all sectors, including public institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector. It is also responsible for monitoring and evaluating government policies and programs aimed at improving gender equality.1

The Ministry’s main mission is to reduce gender gaps and increase the accessibility of productive resources to all women. Their five main activities are:

  1. Mainstream gender in laws, government reforms, and national and sectoral policies.
  2. Coordinate and monitor gender equality program and policy implementation
  3. Enforce measures to remove barriers, discrimination, and gender stereotypes that hinder women’s public participation
  4. Implement initiatives to encourage men and boys to support gender equality and get involved in housework and childcare
  5. Identify the needs of vulnerable women and girls.2

Since 2023, the Ministry has been headed by Her Excellency Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, who has also served as the Minister of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs since 2004. In addition to her position as Minister, H.E Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi has been the Chairwoman of the National Committee for Upholding Social Morality and Women and Khmer Family Values (NCSWF) since 2006. In 2014, she was among the nine women leaders named “Most Outstanding Women” by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC).3 Today, she also serves as the Deputy Chairwoman of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) and the Chairwoman of the Technical Working Group on International Cooperation.4

Organizational structure 

The diagram below shows the organizational structure of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, illustrating all the departments and sub-departments within the Ministry.

Organizational structure of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, prepared by ODC team.

Ministers of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs since 1993

The timeline below shows the list of those serving as Ministers of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs since 1993.5

Timeline indicating Ministers of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs since 1993, prepared by the ODC team.

Provincial Departments of Women’s Affairs (PDoWA)

Today, there are about 25 Provincial Departments of Women’s Affairs (PDoWA) across provinces and municipalities of Cambodia.6 Additionally, there are about 18 Women’s Development Centers (WDCs) in 14 provinces. These sub-national level centers operate under the ministry and its provincial departments to provide vocational training to women, expanding their skills and increasing employment opportunities. This training covers various skills such as weaving, handicraft production, hairdressing, tailoring, and food processing.7

According to a UN report, through these provincial departments and centers, the Ministry has provided vocational training to approximately 3,740 women annually between 2018 and 2020. The Ministry also organized about 211 manufacturing and savings groups, which consist of approximately 5,080 families in various non-agricultural industries such as handicrafts, poultry production, food production, and so on. These activities are conducted in five provinces: Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kampot, and Kandal.8

Neary Rattanak

Neary Rattanak is a series of five-year national strategic plans for gender equality and women’s empowerment first developed by the Ministry of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs in 1999. The vision of Neary Rattanak is that “All Cambodian citizens enjoy equal rights in accordance with the law, in particular women and girls, to have personal safety, fully participate in public life, work, be empowered and make decisions at all levels and in all fields equally with men and boys to ensure self-ownership and harmony in family, community, and society.”9 The plan is currently in its fifth phase as Neary Rattanak V (2019-2023) and is being implemented under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Similar to its predecessors, Neary Rattanak V promotes gender mainstreaming in policies, strategic plans, and development programs across all sectors and at all levels, especially in economy, education, health, legal protection, governance, and climate change. To achieve its goal of strengthening gender mainstreaming, the plan consists of six sectoral strategies:

  1. Women’s Economic Empowerment
  2. Education of Women and Girls
  3. Health of Women and Girls
  4. Legal Protection for Women and Girls
  5. Women in Public Leadership and Politics
  6. Gender in Climate Change.10

Neary Rattanak V also features an institutional support strategy for capacity development and efficiency, which focuses on enhancing the capacity and public administrative reform within the Ministry, increasing the effectiveness of work performance monitoring and evaluation, and expanding the management and dissemination of information for gender responsiveness. The strategy also works to increase the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities, who are a part of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.11

Neary Rattanak is supported by two main funding sources, the national budget, and cooperation with various partner organizations. Some of the main organizations include the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Women, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), ACTION AID, and Care International.12

Initiatives by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs

Initiatives by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, prepared by ODC team.

16-Day campaign

In 2023, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs launched a 16-day campaign under the theme “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls,” to end violence against women.13 The 16-day campaign is an annual international campaign that was started by activists at the inauguration of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. The campaign is seen as an organizational strategy for individuals and organizations to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. Every year, the campaign runs for a total of 16 days starting on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until 10 December, Human Rights Day.14

According to Her Excellency Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Cambodia is committed to reducing gender-based violence to a minimum by 2030 in order to achieve the ‘three zero’ principles: zero unmet need for contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.15

Women’s empowerment and capacity-building initiatives

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has adopted various initiatives to achieve its goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2020, the Ministry established the Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Centre (WEDC) with the goals of

  • Providing capacity-building support to women entrepreneurs in Cambodia.
  • Increasing the market for women entrepreneurs.
  • Creating systematic knowledge management platforms for women entrepreneurs in Cambodia.16

In the same year, the Ministry also initiated the first National Cambodian Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (CamWEN) to bring together relevant female entrepreneurship advocates in Cambodia, including women entrepreneurs’ associations, federations, and organizations. The goal of this initiative is to gather women entrepreneurs’ voices and include them in decision-making processes.17

In addition to supporting women entrepreneurs, the Ministry also works with youth by establishing various youth programs, such as the Youth Leadership Lab for Gender Equality. The program aims to encourage youth enrolled in higher education and public institutions to engage in the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of discrimination against women. The program includes a series of trainings, reflections, public forum participation, field visits, and internships at partner institutions, among other activities.18

Key inter-ministerial collaboration with MoWA

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has also been actively cooperating with other ministries in different initiatives. One of the key initiatives that MoWA is involved in is the National Council for Counter Trafficking (NCCT). Under Royal Decree NS/RKT/0614/80819 the council was established on 25 June 2014 as a national mechanism to combat human trafficking in Cambodia. The council promotes the implementation of laws, national and international policies, and government policies related to human trafficking while strengthening the collaboration between stakeholders, including government, civil society organizations, development partners, and other public sectors.20

As a member of the council, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs leads one of the six inter-ministerial working groups, the International Cooperation Working Group. The group worked on the Five-Year National Strategic Plan for Counter Trafficking in Persons 2014-2018 and the Five-Year National Strategic Plan for Counter Trafficking in Persons 2019-2023, which is being implemented at the sub-national level.21 The Ministry’s main task is to oversee the operation of the plan, with the support of a sub-national committee called the Capital Committee for Combating Human Trafficking led by the capital governor, and the Provincial Committee for Combating Human Trafficking led by the provincial governor, with organizational structure in communes and districts throughout Cambodia. On the other hand, the Ministry of Interior leads the Law Enforcement Working Group of the NCCT. All reported crimes and interventions are handled by that ministry.22

Under the NCCT, the Migration Working Group also works to promote and protect the safety, rights, and interests of migrants in a gender-responsive way. The group was established in September 2012, led by the Ministry of Interior and vice-chaired by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT), the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the Ministry of Justice.23

International cooperation:

  • ACCESS program

With the support of the Australian Government and via the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australia-Cambodia Cooperation for Equitable Sustainable Services (ACCESS) program is a five-year (2018-2023) initiative aimed at improving the sustainability, quality, and inclusiveness of services for persons with disabilities and women affected by gender-based violence (GBV). The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, along with other key ministries, cooperates with the program to increase the effectiveness of gender-based violence and disability-related services. ACCESS supports the government mainly in the implementation of two national action plans, the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women (NAPVAW) and the National Disability Strategic Plan (NDSP).24

  • Union Aid Abroad APHEDA

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Union Aid Abroad APHEDA on a three-year project called “Women Workers and Decent Work”.25 Founded in 1984, APHEDA is a global justice organization of the Australian union movement, who support stronger union and social movements in different regions, including Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, and Southern Africa.26 The “Women Workers and Decent Work” project in Cambodia ran from April 2020 to June 2023, to develop women workers’ capacity by mobilizing women workers and changing attitudes and values of women and work.27 In addition to the project, APHEDA is also working with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to address the lack of representation of women in leadership positions in the workplace. The Ministry hosted a national dialogue on increasing women worker’s access to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) on June 2023. The dialogue was joined by representatives from different institutions, organizations, and government agencies, including the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, the Ministry of Tourism, the Department of National Social Security Fund (NSSF),  and the National Council for Social Support, promoting women’s access to decent work and social support.28

  • Project on Gender Mainstreaming for Women’s Economic Empowerment (PGM-WEE)

Since the 1990s, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have worked collaboratively on several projects to promote women’s empowerment in Cambodia. These projects include the Project on Gender Mainstreaming and Policy Development through Upgrading Information and Research Capacity (PGM1) and the Project on Gender Mainstreaming (PGM2). Following these two projects, the Project on Gender Mainstreaming for Women’s Economic Empowerment (PGM-WEE) aims to promote women’s economic empowerment via gender-responsive programs and projects coordinated by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs across Cambodia.29

  • Project to Support the Leading the Way for Gender Equality Programme (PSLWGE)

Project to Support the Leading the Way for Gender Equality Programme is a project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Sweden via the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The goal of this project is to provide capacity development and advisory support to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the implementation of the Leading the Way for Gender Equality (LWGE) program. The LWGE program was implemented by the MoWA in 2017 to consolidate institutional coordination for gender equality in Cambodia by developing a supportive environment for gender equality, women’s empowerment, and feminist leadership in Cambodia.30

Regional collaboration

Regionally, Cambodia has been part of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) since 2004 when the country signed the Memorandum of Understanding with other countries from the Greater Mekong Sub-region, including China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The COMMIT is an initiative to combat human trafficking via the implementation of international standards for counter-trafficking, utilizing multilateral, bilateral, and government-NGO cooperation. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is the chair of the COMMIT Cambodia Taskforce, co-chaired by three other ministries: the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and the Ministry of Justice.31

Pentagon Strategy: Phase 1

The Pentagon Strategy is the core development strategy of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) in the seventh legislature of the National Assembly. The strategy consists of five main objectives:

  1. Ensure economic growth.
  2. Create more jobs.
  3. Achieve poverty reduction targets.
  4. Strengthen capacity, governance, and quality of public institutions.
  5. Ensure sustainable socio-economic development.

The first phase of the strategy focuses on “People, Road, Water, Electricity, and Technology”. Compared to the Rectangular Strategy-Phase IV, the previous core development strategy, the current Government had added “technology” into one of its key priorities, signaling a commitment to digitalization and technological adaptation in national developmental policies.

In terms of women and gender, the Government is committed to continue promoting gender equality, especially women’s participation in leadership positions as well as reducing gender-based violence against women and girls. The Government will also be investing in gender-related initiatives, to close the gender gap by focusing on women’s and girl’s empowerment in the economy, education, health, and public leadership. 32

According to Prime Minister Hun Manet, the Government will be addressing the gender gap and lack of opportunities for women through different initiatives, including increasing access to education and vocational training for female students via scholarships, increasing women’s participation in national institutions, and promoting women in decision-making roles.33 As the Pentagon Strategy prioritizes digital transformation, the Government may increase its efforts in providing capacity building in the form of digital literacy and technology to empower women in their respective roles and fields.

Related to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs

References

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