Despite Cambodia having only a handful of female lawmakers, they are more likely to visit local communities than their male counterparts, with opposition female lawmakers in particular far outstripping men, according to Comfrel’s Gender Watch report released yesterday.
The election watchdog’s statistics showed that of 24 female lawmakers, more than 83 percent (20) made provincial trips in 2016, compared to around 78 percent of their 99 male counterparts. Women from both parties each made an average of roughly 14 trips per year, while men averaged 13.
The three female lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, however, were far and away the most prolific travellers, statistically speaking, averaging 40 trips apiece to the provinces in a year. They also trounced the men in their own party, who averaged only 18 trips apiece.
For female politicians and gender advocates, the figures reinforced a truth they knew only too well – women in power must work harder than men in the same roles.
“I’m not surprised. We are graded much more strictly, graded not only as to performance, [but] they demand higher education from women,” said opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua. “Before we can get an opportunity we have to fight for that opportunity, and then we have to perform extremely well, and if we don’t then we don’t get another chance.”
She said women often paid closer attention to social issues that demanded provincial ventures, such as health care and education.
But this could be a double-edged sword, in which female lawmakers get shoehorned into “soft issues” stereotypically associated with women and are denied decision-making power.
Keo Chanmoney, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker in Kampong Chhnang, said visiting local communities was vital to public life.
“We need to go to meet the community people as much as we can to let them know they are not living alone and we care about them,” she said.
“I don’t care how often the CNRP lawmaker women go or what they are doing, but I really encourage our women to go as much as they can,” Chanmoney added.
Comfrel’s education and gender coordinator, Sonket Sereyleak, said the group “wants to see them prioritise intervention cases rather than the gift-giving and inaugurations, because it could help the villagers’ problems”.
Overall, lawmakers made 1,665 provincial visits last year, up from 1,107 visits in 2015.