Addressing the situation of women’s rights in Cambodia

Presented by Ioana-Sorina Alexa and Olimpia Guidi

Education emerges as a crucial factor in addressing this disparity. The Cambodian Women’s Leadership Institute, established in 2009, offers training programs to enhance women’s leadership skills and political knowledge . viii

However, progress is slow due to various barriers. Socio-cultural norms and patriarchal attitudes often discourage women from entering politics . Limited access to education, particularly in rural areas where gender disparities in literacy rates persist, further impedes women’s political engagement . xi

In Cambodia, women’s involvement in activities promoting and protecting human rights is notable, with numerous grassroots initiatives led by women making significant impacts. One such example is the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC), which has been at the forefront of advocating for women’s rights and combating gender-based violence since its establishment in 1997. xxx

Cambodia ranks 41st out of 146 countries for women’s ownership or management of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), indicating a relatively high rate of female participation in entrepreneurship compared to other nations. xxxv

One such measure is the establishment of gender-sensitive legal frameworks and policies that prioritize women’s rights and address gender-based discrimination . For example, the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims, enacted in 2005, provides legal protections for survivors of domestic violence and mandates the establishment of shelters and support services. xlv

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viii Chea, P. (2021). Underrepresentation of Cambodian Women in Politics and Leadership Roles. Available at:

xi Johnston, M., Kelly, R.C., Eichler, R. (2023). Brazil’s Economy: GDP vs. GDP per capita.

Available at:

Tuy, S. (2019). Discrimination against women in accessing higher education in Cambodia. JSEAHR, 3, 101. Available at:

xxx Weaner, J. (2008). The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center: safety, shelter, training… and then. McMaster School For Advancing Humanity, 7, 7. Available at:

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xxxv The Phnom Penh Post (2023). Cambodia advances women’s roles, aims for 2030, 2050 goals Retrieved from:

xlv Brickell, K. (2016). Gendered violences and rule of/by law in Cambodia. Dialogues in Human Geography, 6(2), 182-185. Available at:

Universal Periodic Review of Cambodia

  • Today, the state controls education in Cambodia through the Ministry of Education at the national level and the Department of Education at the provincial level. The Cambodian education system includes preschool, primary, general secondary, tertiary, and vocational education.
  • After finishing primary school, students move on to three years of compulsory lower secondary education. Students then can continue to upper secondary education or enter secondary-level vocational training programs offered by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training. After completing upper secondary education, students must take a national high school exam. In 2019, approximately 68% of students passed. Students who pass the exam can enrol in two-year associate degree programs, four-year bachelor’s degree programs and seven-year medical degree programs at the university. However, enrolment numbers into tertiary education are low, with only 13% of students entering the university system. All students also can enrol in vocational training programs or associate degrees.
  • In 2017, there were 7,144 primary schools nationwide and an additional ninety-six primary schools for disadvantaged students. In the same period, 46,149 staff members taught 2,022,061 primary school children. Primary education commonly starts at age six and lasts six years.
  • The Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP), a World Bank-funded project, has significantly improved lower-secondary education in Cambodia. It has seen increased enrolment in schools, construction of more school buildings, construction of houses for teachers in remote locations, renovation of classrooms, and installation of laboratories.
  • SEIP has trained teachers, community representatives, and people in charge of the management of schools.
  • This review will focus on areas of improvement related to the standard of learning, water and sanitation, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and gender inequality.

By Ruth Lakica and Enes Gisi

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Cover image by Alan C. on Flickr.