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Women's Rights in CambodiaThe Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has been one of the world’s most important nongovernmental organizations defending women’s rights since it was adopted by the U.N. General Council in 1979. Since then, it has been ratified by 187 countries and has played a major role in the overall increase of women’s safety and living standards worldwide.

Cambodia ratified the CEDAW in 1992, shortly after the end of its civil war. Despite the good intentions such a ratification signals, women’s rights in Cambodia remained stagnant for many years.

Not until the 2003 National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) was enacted did the Cambodian CEDAW ratification become anything more than nominal. Among many other goals, the NPRS acknowledged and addressed the gap in education, employment and property rights between men and women. Though many women were helped by the plan, the fact remains that they were simply a small part of a larger overall strategy. There remained much to do.

Though women’s rights in Cambodia were helped by both the NPRS and a 2002 affirmative action policy, which gave priority to women entering tertiary education, it was not until recently that the government began truly following through on its commitment to equal rights for women. The Cambodia National Council for Women (CNCW) and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) were both established in 2001, but it was not until 2005 and 2007, respectively, that either began having any measurable effect.

Some progress has been made. In 2005, 64 percent of people in Cambodia knew a man who had abused his wife. By 2009, the number had shrunk to 53 percent. Infant mortality rates dropped from 65 to 45 per 1000 births between 2005 and 2010, and maternal mortality rates dropped from 472 to 206 per 100,000 births over the same period. From 2008 to 2013, the number of women who received education increased three percent overall, with the most significant improvements being made in the vital rural regions.

Women’s rights in Cambodia have come a long way in a short amount of time, but there is no place now for complacency. Women make up only 15 percent of the Cambodian Senate, a number unchanged since 1999. Parliament is slightly better, with one in five members being women, but this percentage is still frighteningly low.

No Cambodian provinces are governed by women, and sex trafficking, low wages and long hours at menial jobs remain a reality for many women, especially those in rural areas. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights monitors violations of women’s rights and the work they do alongside the CNCW and the MoWA will continue to shepherd Cambodia into the future. If Cambodians truly wish to become a modern nation, the progress they have made cannot stop until reality reflects the intent of the CEDAW, signed so many years ago.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr


Morocco is known for being one of the most progressive states in the Middle East and North because of its advancements made for women. Despite these advancements, women’s education in Morocco still lags behind. In 1999, King Mohammed VI ascended the throne after the death of his late father. Since then, his reign has been touted as “the education decade,” and the rise of literacy for the women of Morocco could be partly credited to the King. Here are five facts about women’s education in Morocco.

  1. Literacy rates are low but are still increasing. For a long time, the literacy rates for women in Morocco have been low. King Mohammed’s implementation of more progressive laws has helped to increase these literacy rates. For example, one gave rights for women to be autonomous in the Family Code. Another removed all restrictions from the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). According to the World Bank, literacy rates jumped from 27% in 1999 to about 63% in 2016. Unfortunately, the number of girls pursuing high school and university are still low. Just 10% of girls attend university, but the numbers are growing due to the construction of new schools and girls’ dormitories at existing schools. This makes it easier to attend when the closest school is miles away from home and unreachable by public transportation.
  2. There is a big gap between the urban and rural areas of Morocco. Almost 90% of women in rural areas are illiterate. These numbers are largely due to the cultural norms in rural areas, where traditional gender roles are still prevalent. People still believe the proper place for a woman is at home. This is why the number of girls attending schools in rural areas is only 26%, while for boys it is 79%. Unfortunately for girls in rural areas, access to schools is far from easy. Most schools in rural areas are miles away from homes. The schools become inaccessible because of the poor infrastructure and dirt roads not always being reliable.
  3. The Language Barrier: Berber vs. Arabic. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language in the country, but Berber is the language spoken in rural areas. In many Berber-speaking areas, girls stay at home because school is taught in Arabic. The teachers provided by the state almost never know how to speak Berber. This takes away the chance for these girls to learn.
  4. Education for mothers on the rise. On a positive note, parents of children are also taking advantage of opportunities to learn when they can. The state started a program called Mahou Al Omiya (Erasing Illiteracy), which provides night classes in local schools. Although the program is open to both men and women, mothers of school-aged children have the highest attendance rate. This gives mothers the opportunity to complete the schooling they never had the chance to finish. This opportunity helps the mothers to form relationships with the teachers of their children and gives them the ability to assist their children with their own school work.
  5. Foreign aid is a necessity. Foreign aid has become essential to the advancement of women’s education in Morocco. Aid like the United States Millennium Challenge project has provided $100 million towards the construction of more schools in Morocco. The work of NGOs has also become essential. The campaign Let Girls Learn sends Peace Corps volunteers to assist local leaders to help advance girls’ education and empowerment.

While there remains a long way to go, the progress for women’s education in Morroco over the last 20 years has been remarkable. With continued local and international support, opportunities for young and old will continue to drive the nation toward a lasting prosperity.

Maria S. Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

cedaw
Despite having been proposed during the Carter administration, the Global Women’s Treaty (CEDAW) was never approved by the Senate. Under the current Obama administration, attention has been brought back to the United Nations treaty for ratification. Many human rights organizations have criticized the United States’ inaction with this treaty for decades.

The treaty hopes to attain full gender equality, specifically in areas of domestic violence, maternal health, economic opportunities and human trafficking. Although the U.S. prides itself on being at the forefront of human rights activism and campaigns, not ratifying the treaty seems contradictory. Only seven nations, including the U.S., have not ratified the treaty.

The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has supported the treaty twice, but there has not been substantial support in the Senate as a whole. CEDAW acts as a guideline for countries to follow in order to eliminate gender inequality. In past years, many advancements in women’s rights have been attributed to the CEDAW framework.

With barriers to economic and social equality, countries are functioning at a fraction of their potential. CEDAW helps to alleviate these barriers, tailoring guidelines for each country based on its current landscape. For these reasons, the U.S.’ ratification would not only help solidify domestic efforts to foster gender equality, but also promote gender equality in other nations.

With nations including China, Russia, the UK and many of our NATO allied nations participating, the U.S. is one of the few to not cooperate on this issue. With U.S.’ leadership and resources, the international alliance toward improving global living conditions for women can prosper. With the approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hopefully CEDAW will pass through the Senate this year.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Human Rights Watch, CEDAW 2014
Photo: Ratify CEDAW Facebook