Cambodia is a country of widespread poverty, with over a third of the population living below the poverty line (US$0.63)1. The majority of the population also face limited access to education (particularly at secondary level and above), land and food insecurity. This poverty is even more pronounced in the rural areas where Banteay Srei works.

Women face significant inequalities in Cambodia, which ranks 95 out of 138 on the Gender Inequality Index2. There has been some improvement in recent years, particularly in access to education and women’s role in politics, but the difference in opportunities and power between men and women is still very marked. Far fewer girls go on to higher education, and a significant percentage of women are engaged in unstable employment or unpaid domestic work, with little access to organised markets, credits and training institutions, and to other public services.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) remains a significant issue in Cambodia, and is a product of the gender inequality and traditional gender norms existing within Cambodian society. Over 20% of women over the age of 15 have experienced physical violence3. This problem is made worse by poor and unequal access to the justice system, which presents particular barriers to the poor.

Increasing decentralisation and recent changes to the law have improved the framework and opportunities for rural communities to participate in development but these changes are, so far, poorly implemented in many areas and awareness of rights is low among the rural population.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei has been working with women and men in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces for over 20 years with the aim of empowering vulnerable women to improve their political, economic and social situation by implementing community development projects, advocacy work, and networking.

Banteay Srei (meaning ‘Citadel of Women’) a local Cambodian non-governmental organisation (NGO) was named after a tenth-century Cambodian temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Banteay Srei evolved from an Australian NGO, the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) that had been working in Cambodia since 1985. Banteay Srei registered with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior as a local NGO in June 2000.

With over 20 years of experience working with poor Cambodian women and their communities in rural areas, Banteay Srei has become a leading local NGO in the area of building women’s capacity in leadership to bring about political, economic and social change.


1. UNDP, Cambodia

2. UNDP, 2010 Human Development Report

3. Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey 2005, National Institute of Statistics, Cambodia