Perspectives: Women's Economic Empowerment and Gender Justice

H.E. Chea Serey, Assistant Governor and Director General of Central Banking, National Bank of Cambodia

H.E. Chea Serey, Assistant Governor and Director General of Central Banking
National Bank of Cambodia

“I realize that I am considered as one of Cambodia’s successful women. After all, it is unusual to achieve the kind of position that I have and receive such media exposure at my age, and even more unusual for a woman. I know exactly what I am worth and the respect that I deserve. I am proud of this achievement and I am honored to be a role model and to open the doors for the younger generation coming after me, especially the women in my family—my daughters and nieces.”

Driven by a Positive Impact Energy

The opening sentence portrays me as a boastful, pretentious and patronizing woman, swooning in her own success. This is exactly where the problem lies in our society. We value modesty, but a little too much. I remember debating with a woman leader from the West who suggested that as women, we have to demand what we want and what we deserve. I told her that in my country, that would be perceived as arrogance and wouldn’t be appreciated. Many women I interact with in this country not only do not take credit for themselves but neither do they give credit to those who have done well in life, particularly those not conforming to social norms or expectations. Women in Cambodia are submissive to their family, to culture and tradition. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t limit their ability to grow and blossom into the person they want themselves to be. This can only happen when they start appreciating themselves, celebrating their successes AND failures and acknowledging others. Most importantly, a woman’s dignity shouldn’t depend on the type of job or position she is holding, but on the positive impact she has on others as she goes about her tasks. A stay-at-home mother is as honorable as a working mother. Her dedication in raising her children to be good citizens in their country and society is an honorable deed.

Women need to support each other, celebrate each other’s success and acknowledge each other’s contribution. We can’t afford to compete or tear each other down; we need to stick together and claim our rights in society while instilling a culture free of gender bias in our younger generation.