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Life outside of the home: Interrogating men's understanding of their roles in Cambodia

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posted on 2021-11-15, 10:31 authored by Sokhan, Synoda

This study aims to investigate some men's understanding of their roles, especially in their life outside of the home. It also investigates the life experiences of some men who have alternative views from the majority of men in Cambodia's patriarchal society.  This study's research design used mixed methods. A questionnaire with 60 men generated quantitative data. In addition, six focus groups and six case studies were used to generate qualitative data. Both rural and urban areas were selected for this study, including Phnom Penh city and the province of Siem Reap, which is the poorest province in Cambodia.  The findings focus on men's perspectives of being a good man/husband, and their domestic roles. My analysis draws attention to the characteristics of participants and their ideas concerning decision making in families. Importantly, these findings show that certain activities outside of the home, particularly the use of alcohol, is commonplace for many men. I describe the life experiences of men with alternative views from the dominant Cambodian views men hold regarding their ideas of being a man. I point out men's concerns for their children's behaviour and their opinions concerning the next generation. The two groups of men in the study, “dominant view men” and “alternative view men” have a shared understanding of their roles and of what it means to be a good man despite their differences. The problem is that men who hold the dominant views do not seem to perform well in their daily lives, while alternative view men tend to apply their understanding of their roles to their everyday life and have greater success.  A noticeable finding of the study is that of alcohol abuse. It is a very common activity to drink to excess and this can lead to many problems in families. Most of the respondents drank heavily and regularly. However, the men who held alternative views regarding their roles as men spent less time drinking alcohol than the dominant view men. Many problems which were present among dominant view men were caused by drinking, including arguments and domestic violence. The life experiences of alternative view men seem to show that family stereotypes and background are important in moulding men's behaviour. Furthermore, beliefs, commitment to marriage and religion have positive effects on men's behaviour. A significant point in this study is that life skills can have a great impact on men's behavioural change.  The findings showed that decision making in the families was affected by the views men held. Although there is still some imbalance of gender roles in decision making, this finding presents a positive result of women being encouraged to make decisions in their families. This shows the effects of a gender mainstreaming education program changing social and cultural values.  These findings can contribute to strategies in existing men's projects in Cambodia which aim to bring about behavioural changes in men. In turn, these will better support gender equality. It is hoped that the results will be introduced and inform NGO projects in Cambodia and contribute to men‟s understanding of their roles. Men need to understand that they have a role to play in women's empowerment, livelihood projects and educational programs. This thesis is an important canvassing of society in a time of immense change and hopes to add to the improvement of gender equality in Cambodia.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Harrington, Carol; Kindon, Sara