UN Under Secretary-General Noeleen Heyzer (R) with Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi yesterday. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia needed to invest in women to aid its development and integration into the ASEAN economic community, United Nations Under Secretary-General Noeleen Heyzer said yesterday.
Heyzer, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), met with Minister of Women Affair’s Ing Kantha Phavi and members of the Cambodian Women’s Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA) at a small silk shop in Phnom Penh to discuss the strides made by the government and the private sector to buoy women’s roles in the economy.
Heyzer lauded the improvements that both the organisation and the government have made to women’s lives in Cambodia, but called for more action as the pending ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) would require substantial work to ensure the country remains competitive.
“The whole integration process will actually help to build up the infrastructure. So it’s really infrastructure which is seen as the hardware of connectivity but we also need to look at the software in connectivity,” she said.
Women’s roles as entrepreneurs, and the CWEA’s efforts to create a co-working space to allow women to unite to develop businesses and receive training was highlighted as one of the key efforts in enabling the Kingdom to prepare for the AEC, as making sure people have the skills necessary to do business is as important as having the means to do business.
Heyzer expressed concerns as well, saying that Cambodia needs to build on its strengths through diversification.
“I think the most important thing is to really take a look at how the economic intergration is to taking place. Cambodia obviously has certain comparative advantages. You have a whole manufacturing sector that has been focused on garments, but at the same time you need to diversify the whole economy. Tourism is another major sector here. Therefore providing those types of services will be critical,” she added.
Kantha Phavi anticipated Heyzer’s remarks earlier in the day when she said: “All economic progress of Cambodia is undermined when potential from thousands of women remains untapped.”
Dr Heyzer’s trip to Cambodia came as part of the gender review process for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Pellechi at [email protected]