06.03.2013 -

International Women’s Day: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities for Cambodian Women

@UNESCO - Literacy class in Ratanakiri province

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the strides that have been made to advance women’s rights and the individual heroes, girls and women, who are making history in societies across the world. The promotion of gender equality aims at bringing about changes in broader social and cultural issues and structures through education.

In the education sector in Cambodia, although gender parity at enrolment has been achieved and special programs aimed at increasing opportunities for girls from remote and impoverished backgrounds have been introduced, serious concerns still remain such as increasing high dropout rates and limited vocational opportunities for young women. Gender parity declines with the level of education, from 47% at primary level to 35% in higher education. Girls with disabilities or from ethnic minority groups struggle to access and stay in school. Dropout rates are usually linked to economic or family needs, with young women entering into low paying jobs with poor health services and limited upward mobility. With around 70% of the population under 30, educating communities and parents on the value of education for women and girls and creating leadership and employment opportunities for women are essential.

Investing in girls’ and women’s education yields individual, societal and development gains: when girls and women are educated, they become empowered and less vulnerable to violence, exploitation and poverty. Their families and communities benefit too-- their children have more opportunities to grow up healthier, better nourished and educated.

This year, UNESCO Phnom Penh is supporting the activities of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA). MoWA is planning for the celebration of the International Women’s Day under the theme “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities to Accelerate Progress”. UNESCO works with Governments across the world to support the right of girls and women to quality education under conditions of safety. This is essential not only for social justice but also for sustainable development.

We must educate to shape new norms and behaviors towards women. We must support women in becoming leaders in all fields of human endeavor, starting from UNESCO’s priorities of education, sciences, culture, communication and information, including the media. To empower women and ensure equality, we must challenge every form of violence every time it occurs. On this International Women’s Day, UNESCO renews its commitment to continue advocating for the future of girls’ education now and in the post-2015 development era.

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