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Economic Growth Hinges on Women

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Women’s inclusion and empowerment in Cambodia’s burgeoning financial sector is crucial for the Kingdom’s economic growth, said delegates yesterday at a regional economic forum.
Oliver Massart, executive director of Appui au Development Autonome (ADA), told the Mekong Financial Inclusion Forum that women were the economic pillars in their families and had to be included in the financial sector, including obtaining credit, facilitating savings and getting insurance.
“They are the center of the household. They keep the family together, enable children to go to school and take care of the family budget. Because of this, enabling women to access financial services augurs well for the country’s economy,” said Mr. Massart.
ADA is one of the organizers of the three-day forum that aims to strengthen cooperation and knowledge exchange between countries and institutions to boost financial inclusion within the Greater Mekong Sub-region Countries (GMS). The countries in the GMS are Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Top Sok Samphea, board member of the Cambodia Microfinance Association and CEO at VisionFund Cambodia, echoed Mr. Massart and reiterated that the ability of Cambodian women to access financial services was a driving force behind the country’s economic growth.
“The household role of women managing family budgets can be translated into strengthening the country’s economy,” she said.
Neav Chanthana, deputy governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, told the forum that economic empowerment increases women’s access to economic resources and opportunities including jobs, financial services, property and other productive assets, skills development and market information.
“Their inclusion in the microfinance and banking sector is crucial for the country’s economy,” she said.
Ms. Chanthana added that in Cambodia, only 61 percent of women are able to access financial services from banks and microfinance institutions.
“This is the same percentage as in Myanmar, while in Laos it is 45 percent,” she said. The highest in the GMS was Thailand, she pointed out, with 90 percent of women being able to access services offered by financial institutions.
VisionFund’s Ms. Samphea told the forum that high interest rates on loans often prevented women from accessing financial services.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) in a report said despite owning a majority of the country’s businesses, women’s businesses account for only 40 percent of total business revenue and 51 percent of total business profits.
“Women’s businesses therefore are on average smaller and less profitable than male-run businesses,” the report said.

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