The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) on Monday issued a press release announcing the launch of a project to boost women’s entrepreneurship in Cambodia.
Unescap said the new project, a partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the Cambodian government, has been launched to support the growth of women entrepreneurs as a strategy for poverty reduction, social well-being and sustainable economic growth.
The five-year project, titled Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, aims to create an enabling policy and business environment that enhances women entrepreneurs’ access to capital through innovative financing mechanisms, as well as increase their use of ICT and digital solutions.
The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of Unescap Armida Alisjahbana said the case for investing in women entrepreneurs is compelling.
“They are true agents of change whose innovations can lift companies, communities and countries,” she said. “We are committed to improving their prospects, to unleashing women entrepreneurs’ full potential and putting gender equality squarely at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.”
Women-owned businesses have been on the rise over the past twenty years across the region. In Cambodia, around 65 per cent of micro-sized businesses are women-led, according to Unescap statistics.
However, women entrepreneurs across the Asia-Pacific region face significantly higher barriers which include discriminatory legislative frameworks, limited access to finance and ICT, lack of opportunity for capacity development and discriminatory socio-cultural norms and beliefs.
Donica Pottie, Canadian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Thailand, said her country is proud to partner with Unescap in helping women overcome these obstacles to reach their full potential, including through innovative finance solutions and access to new technologies.
“Women entrepreneurs are important drivers of economic growth, but they face great challenges in scaling up their businesses,” he said.
Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and President of the National Committee for Unescap, said in the press release that support must be tailored to assist women entrepreneurs to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently by harnessing ICT.
“The private sector is the main driver of Cambodia’s economy, and developing Micro-, Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) is one of the priorities of the government’s private sector development agenda,” he said.
Unescap and the UN Capital Development Fund have also launched a Women’s MSMEs Fintech Innovation Fund.
The fund will support companies to pilot innovative digital and financial solutions that help improve access for women-owned or led MSMEs in the target countries, with funding ranging from $25,000 to $50,000.
A similar new USAID-backed project called We Act with $10 million in funding was also launched in the Kingdom last month, aiming to support and empower young Cambodian women as entrepreneurs and leaders.