The Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW) which works on gender and women’s rights in Cambodia, identified challenges women face during the Covid-19 epidemic such as those related to health, rights, and education, especially the economic hardships in families at risk.

According to the 18-page report on the implementation of the 2020 CEDAW Convention for Cambodia, released on March 9, by 2020 Cambodia will face many challenges for women’s rights. Meanwhile, there will also be an improvement in the dialogue between government and civil society to find solutions to those challenges as well.

“The most outstanding challenges are related to health, education and economic hardship due to the spread of Covid-19, which puts women and LGBT people facing difficult challenges at a disproportionate rate,” the report said.

The report also states that “by 2020, the epidemic will lead to a number of reductions, including the cancellation of major international meetings on women, as many international partners temporary leave Cambodia. And most of training activities and meetings with the government are postponed indefinitely or happening online.”

The report added that businesses where women used to work were closed, including bars, massage places, cinemas, travel agencies, guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and the construction sector.

Throughout 2020, there have been numerous media reports of men killing their partners, leading to an increase in domestic violence cases, according to NGO-CEDAW.

“The family economy caused by the Covid-19 crisis could also be a risk factor for domestic violence. In fact, the number of female migrant workers returning home has increased and there is no opportunity to earn a living in Cambodia. This leading to a loss of income and they have to look after their children who cannot go to school,” the report stated.

At the same time, NGO-CEDAW has made a number of recommendations to the Cambodian government to improve the implementation of the CEDAW Convention, including allocating sufficient national budget for the implementation of the Third National Action Plan to prevent violence against women, amend and strengthen effective law enforcement to eliminate violence against close partners, sexual violence against girls and all forms of gender-based violence.

Secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Man Chenda told The Post on March 9 that the ministry is currently continuing to provide counselling (legal and psychological) and facilitate referrals to relevant services in cases of violence against women during unemployment, education and loss of income.

Regarding law enforcement, she said the government has been paying close attention to implement activities to prevent violence against women in Cambodia.

“The women’s affairs ministry has also developed policies, mechanisms and activities, Neary Rattanak strategic plan, the National Action Plan to prevent violence against women, the Action Plan to prevent young age marriage and adolescent pregnancy and the law to prevent domestic violence as well,” she said.

In 2020, the government launched a cash assistant programme for poor and vulnerable families during the fight against Covid-19, which is a key tool to reduce the impact of the virus in Cambodia.

This programme provides temporary assistance to citizens identified as from poor households (poor 1 and poor 2) and is implemented in parallel with the cash subsidy programme for pregnant women, and children (0-2 years old).