Cambodia Steps up as Regional Role Model for Preventing Violence Against Women
February 4, 2015
Propelled by the leadership of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Cambodia is emerging as a regional, if not global, role model for advocating prevention of violence against women. Today, major gender-responsive policies are being produced, including the 2nd National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women (NAPVAW), the 4th Strategic Plan for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (Neary Rattanak IV), and the Cambodia Gender Assessment 2014.
Apart from domestic action on ending violence against women, Cambodia is stepping up its role among its neighbors. In October 2014 in Siem Reap, Cambodia hosted a four-day Regional Parliamentarians Meeting on Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls and the Meeting of the Asian Forum of the Parliamentarians on Population and Development “Standing Committee of Male Parliamentarians on the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls.” Australian MP, Laurie Ferguson, praised the Cambodian presenters for adding to the understanding of specific problems and aid delivery hurdles faced in combatting violence against women. In fact, Australia’s ambassador for women and girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, is here in Cambodia this week, and learning about human trafficking and violence against women in the country is top on her agenda.
However, keeping pace with demand to respond to violence against women will not be easy for Cambodia’s government. As rapid socio-economic development and poverty reduction increase opportunities for women and girls, new vulnerabilities arise. Violence against women and girls in Cambodia is still prevalent, with 25 percent of women having experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence. Not only is violence against women a severe rights abuse, the costs of violence against women constitute a major impediment to Cambodia’s further social and economic development.
Any improvement in Cambodia’s human rights record is much welcomed, and the government’s move to end violence against women offers a new approach. The 2nd NAPVAW identifies five strategic priority areas to prevent violence before it occurs and to respond immediately to violence against women and girls. The 2nd NAPVAW sets out a framework to build capacity for better access to services, to design gender-sensitive laws and policies, as well as to monitor and evaluate violence against women interventions. The scope of the 2nd NAPVAW is far-reaching and ambitious, which places a premium on sound analysis to navigate the policy tradeoffs and prioritize spending.
Fortunately, national research institutions, civil society organizations, and the government have increasing experience in conducting policy research, and a wealth of data related to violence against women and other socio-economic issues are available in Cambodia. In fact, advances in technology have led to the development of an online national microdata repository under the auspices of the National Institute of Statistics (NIS). This is a significant leap forward compared to the past where survey datasets, and sometimes even final reports, have failed to find their way into appropriate government institutions. However, in a just-released study undertaken by the Korean Women’s Development Institute and The Asia Foundation, the authors found that access to secondary data was a prerequisite to identifying the most affected geographic areas and demographic groups in those areas.
While the national microdata repository is growing with each new dataset produced in Cambodia, accessing data is still constrained by bureaucratic “red tape” and information fiefdoms within institutions. Part of the problem is that there is often lack of official guidance and procedures in place for sharing datasets. The default position is to hoard data. In international development practice, compared to say federally funded research, rarely do donors consider the onward use of datasets. Instead, the focus is often on producing a single study or report. As such, onward dataset usage tends to fall into gray areas of ownership between government, implementers, and the donors themselves. Such problems are compounded by ethical considerations for secondary datasets where globally the guidance on the ethics of secondary analysis of data is virtually non-existent.
While the roadmap to gender equality and women’s empowerment in Cambodia has been created, the contours of the road itself now require greater attention. Undoubtedly, 2014 was a watershed moment for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Cambodia is fast becoming a role model for implementing gender-sensitive and gender-responsive laws and policies that potentially can have a positive snowball effect for other countries in the region.
Now it’s time to dust off the data and create an environment that is more conducive for policy research. Successful implementation of the 2nd NAPVAW may indeed rest on this.
Alexandra Amling is a program officer for The Asia Foundation in Cambodia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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