Leadership pathways for local women: Case studies of three communes in Cambodia
Women in leadership are necessary for the development of Cambodia. Their involvement in leadership roles in the public sphere and politics is crucial and has been shown to impact positively on poverty reduction. Governments, NGOs and international organizations have been increasingly aware that development is significantly linked to gender. It is noted that sustainable development should focus on gender equality and that women’s empowerment is a key factor in ending extreme poverty. Thus, a developing country like Cambodia should aim to empower women at the grassroots level. This study aims to facilitate how this may be achieved. The lack of representation of women in local politics in Cambodia has recently been considered as a problem which can slow the progress of local development. This study uses case studies to understand the complexity of some women’s real-life situations (life experience, behaviours, and emotions) and to explore the patterns of women becoming leaders at local levels. Three communes in the North-Eastern provinces, Kampong Cham, Kratie and Steung Treng provide the empirical base of the study. The study poses three main research questions: firstly, what type of work, personal characteristics and resources influence women to become local leaders? Secondly, what experiences do female local leaders have? Lastly, what can be learned from women’s backgrounds and experiences to assist in the formation of a practical leadership model to help guide other women aspiring to be local leaders? In answering this last research question, the study concludes by offering a practical leadership model that is intended to help increase women’s participation in local politics. This study found that to achieve leadership, women need to build up their local work experience. Secondly, certain personal characteristics need to be developed, including a minimum education level, personal drive, confidence, gentleness, softness, integrity and friendliness. These internal factors gain people’s trust, acknowledgement and support. Lastly, women need the continuing support of government, NGOs, family, villagers and others, including political parties. Greater opportunities for women to get involved in local politics will enable them to have access to local work experience, so they can build their own capacity, and enrich their education. The findings will assist organisations and women to plan for leadership and to create and make the most of opportunities.