United Nations launches project to boost women’s entrepreneurship in Cambodia
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the Government of Cambodia, today launched a new project 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. Apart from Cambodia, the project will also be implemented in five other countries in the region. The project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
“The case for investing in women entrepreneurs is compelling. They are true agents of change whose innovations can lift companies, communities, and countries. 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,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Ms. Armida Alisjahbana.
Women-owned businesses have been on the rise over the past twenty years in the region. In Cambodia, around 65 per cent of micro-sized businesses are women-led. However, when it comes to upscaling their businesses, women entrepreneurs across the Asia-Pacific region face significantly higher barriers including discriminatory legislative frameworks, limited access to finance and ICT, lack of opportunity for capacity development and discriminatory socio-cultural norms and beliefs.
“Women entrepreneurs are important drivers of economic growth, but they face great challenges in scaling up their businesses. Canada is proud to partner with ESCAP in helping women overcome these obstacles in order to reach their full potential, including through innovative finance and access to new technologies,” said H.E. Donica Pottie, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to the Kingdom of Thailand, Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
“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 Royal Government of Cambodia’s private sector development agenda. Support must be tailored to assist woman entrepreneurs to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently by harnessing on ICT in such a fast-growing technological and innovation era. The project ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ will provide great benefits to women in Cambodia and in other project implementing countries”, said H.E. Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and President of the National Committee for ESCAP. He added: “Under the leadership of H. E. Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, women are promoted and empowered for growth and equity. This is reflected in the Rectangular Strategy IV which continues to stress on achieving gender equality, and which embarks on a new era of social protection through enhancing their social-economic situation and strengthening the role of women who are considered the backbone of the economy and society.”
The formal launch of the project in Phnom Penh was officiated by H.E. Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and President of the National Committee for ESCAP, H.E. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs, H.E. Donica Pottie, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to the Kingdom of Thailand, Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Ms. Pauline Tamesis, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cambodia. Following the launch, a two-day national consultation and training for policymakers will be held on integrating women’s needs and considerations into policy and other initiatives supporting entrepreneurship, financial inclusion and enabling environment – including ICT solutions - for businesses.
As one of the activities under the innovative finance part of the project, ESCAP and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have also launched a Women Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSME) 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. Successful applicants - who will be announced on 30 May 2019 - will be provided with technical assistance, mentorship and early stage co-funding (USD25,000 – USD50,000) to pilot and upscale their solutions.