WE Act Cambodia – a five-year project funded by USAID that supports young women in Cambodia’s urban centres realise their path toward success as entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities – celebrated the opening of their new Kampong Cham office last week.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, acting Mission Director for USAID in Cambodia Hanh Nguyen said she was honoured to be part of supporting young businesswomen in the region.
“We are pleased to work with our longstanding partner – Pact Cambodia – which implements the Women Entrepreneurs Act – or WE Act – project. This year, the US embassy is showcasing the shared values that drive US and Cambodian cooperation. This quarter, we are focusing on prosperity and sustainability and our support to female entrepreneurs is just one example of our collaboration to help all Cambodians benefit from the country’s growing prosperity,” she said.
The latest project is part of USAID’s global priority of funding successful entrepreneur-strengthening projects around the world. The project seeks to strengthen the eco-system for female entrepreneurs in everything from reforming the policy framework to enabling women to compete on an equal footing with their male counterparts by providing access to financing and venture capital.
Nguyen said: “With a supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem, Cambodia will see a dramatic and positive change in the next decade. A supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem will encourage the growth of thriving, women-owned small and medium businesses and a stronger involvement of women in Cambodia’s economic and civic life.
“Public policy is essential to make that future a reality. That is why we appreciate the Royal Government of Cambodia’s focus on entrepreneurship and applaud the government’s efforts to encourage the country’s businesswomen.”
She added that many services for young Cambodian entrepreneurs have typically only been available in Phnom Penh.
“Women and men have had to travel long distances to benefit from such assistance. On behalf of USAID, I encourage everyone here to take advantage of what WE Act will have to offer in Kampong Cham because we want as many women as possible to benefit,” she added.
A statement from the WE Act website said investment in women is important because the gender is currently subject to a “glass ceiling’ in the Kingdom”.
It goes on to say that while estimates show women own more than half of the businesses in Cambodia, they are generally small with not many staff and few are formally registered. This points to a “glass ceiling”, or service gap, representing a significant opportunity to systematically support the growth of women as economic actors.
“We believe that if women have access to the right information, skills, investment capital and social and business connections – and if they have the personal agency needed to take strategic action with those resources – they will be able to achieve their entrepreneurial goals and live the lives they choose. For their families, communities and Cambodia, this will mean thriving, innovative women-owned enterprises and young women playing dynamic leadership roles throughout society,” says We Act’s site.
The new office is the third WE Act office set up outside the capital. The other two are in Siem Reap and Battambang. Expansion of services to Kampot and Preah Sihanouk are expected later this year.