A new USAID project with $10 million in funding was launched on Wednesday, aiming to support and empower young women in the Kingdom as entrepreneurs and leaders.
Called “Women Entrepreneurs Act” (We Act), it was launched with a ceremony at the Great Duke Phnom Penh hotel.
While estimates show women own more than 60 per cent of businesses in Cambodia, they own only 26 per cent of small businesses with 10 or more employees, and less than two per cent of women’s businesses are formally registered.
USAID’s We Act is a five-year project which first entered preparation stages last year, and is managed by international NGO Pact Cambodia with a fund of $10 million.
According to Sabine Joukes, Pact Cambodia country director and We Act Chief of Party, the project targets young female entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 35, and aims to empower them to establish and support themselves financially.
Joukes added that the project will begin work in urban areas – starting with Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang – and will collaborate with the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association, women’s micro-finance firm SHE Investments and will also have open calls for project proposals.
“We will empower women entrepreneurs, we will work with partners who are already extending services to young women entrepreneurs, and together, as a system, we aim to lift up all women entrepreneurs in their endeavours towards growth and success,” she said.
We Act will also work with young women in secondary schools and will engage them in activities that promote entrepreneurial skills which will be valuable in any career direction.
Laim Kim Leng, director-general of General Department of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Handicraft at the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, welcomed the project, which he said is part of promoting the Kingdom’s many SMEs.
“We need more support from all development partners such as Pact Cambodia, and we hope the entrepreneurs will build up their capabilities and
management skills, as well as upgrade their businesses to be formal and within standards and quality. The government is trying to promote our SMEs by following this policy,” Kim Leng said.
Rotanak – The Home of Cambodian Cuisine founder Ros Rotanak – who started her business last year to provide Cambodian food which “sits proudly with Cambodia’s rich cultural artistic heritage” – said We Act will play an important role in promoting inspiration, problem-solving and business networking among young female entrepreneurs.
“We will have access to a lot of business networks, learn how to solve issues and be inspired by business role-models in our fields,” she said.
“With We Act, we will not feel alone in starting up a business with any idea.”