Cambodia’s democratic decentralization reform is commonly regarded as the most deep-cutting public sector reform and the politically most significant democratic development in Cambodia since 1993. The reform rearranges power structures, creates space for a more pluralistic political representation, addresses gender equality in local politics, and triggers articulation of new political views. However, the reforms continue to face significant challenges: female representation in political decision making bodies remains inadequate, gendered articulation of ideas and priorities have a limited resonance, and established gendered power structures are entrenched and not easily altered.
Taking democratic decentralization and gender equality into account, this study aims to explore the space for women in Cambodia’s emerging local governance system by asking: How has decentralization altered the conditions for women in local politics? To what extent is there an increased gender balance in local political bodies? How do women manage to articulate and pursue their views in local politics? In answering these research questions, three critical issues will be empirically examined: the general impact of decentralization on gender issues; female representation in the commune council; and, women’s political articulation and influence in local politics.