“Forum on Women's Entrepreneurhsip Promotion”
Excellency Minister Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi,
Ladies and gentlemen
First of all, I would like to thank the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, especially H.E Minister, for giving UNDP the opportunity to co-host today’s Forum on Promotion of Women Entrepreneurship with participation from government, private sector as well as women entrepreneurs and producers’ groups, and women business associations.
This Forum is taking place at a right time when the world is facing simultaneous economic, food and energy crises. In countries worldwide, women are taking on more and more work, paid and unpaid, to cushion the impact of the crisis on their families and communities. Women are undertaking critical roles in industry, agriculture, manufacturing, and services. At the same time, women remain an untapped potential: they are absent or scarcely represented in decisional, financial and economic spheres.
To change this, it is vital to empower women economically. Economic Empowerment means that women should not only have equal access to education, health care or jobs, but moreover they should have wider access to opportunities and services for starting and doing their own business.
This forum is an important step in fostering dialogue between the government, the private sector and women entrepreneurs and business associations. Our objective today is to take stock of progress since the first dialogue organized in partnership with IFC; identify what are the evolving challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, and share best practices to address the concerns faced by women entrepreneurs and associations.
We believe that addressing the key bottlenecks preventing participation of women entrepreneurs and their access to services will contribute to addressing the overall bottlenecks for the attainment of MDG 3 on gender equality and CMDG1 on poverty reduction.
Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Cambodia, women represent a large part of the Cambodian workforce with 80.4 percent of Cambodian women aged 15 and over participating. Interestingly, more than 60% of micro, small and medium enterprises are owned by women. But 90% of these businesses are very small and accounted in the informal sector. Many of the women heading such enterprises are isolated, and have no access to services, such as credit, training or information to improve their business and earn more income. There is a great potential for up-grading these small women-led businesses throughout Cambodia: connect them, and inform them, for example, about trends in the market demands, about similar producers’ groups or special grants for start-ups.
In this process, the role the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, together with business associations, can play is critical. For instance in conveying the recommendations that will emerge today about smart investments in women economic empowerment to the high level Government-Private Sector Forum. For instance in promoting networking and access to information.
Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is demonstrated in many countries that increasing women’s access to quality education, good jobs, land and other resources contributes to inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Despite significant progress in term of policy and mechanism to promote women’s rights and status, progress on women’s economic empowerment has been slow and uneven in Cambodia. Limited access to land and property, housing, credit, technology, markets and extension services has undermined women’s livelihoods and restricted their ability to benefit from growth.
Although women have increased their share of wage employment especially in the agriculture and industry sector, the majority of women are disproportionately concentrated in the informal sectors: Such work is generally precarious, poorly paid and not covered by labour legislation or social protection.
As I have just highlighted, women enterprises tend to be micro, small and medium businesses. Our objective is to create a climate that is conducive to increasing the number of women entrepreneurs and the size of their businesses by giving them greater access to: financial instruments; providing training and advisory services; and facilitating networking and information-sharing.
Furthermore, women play a critical role at each stage of the value chain from production of raw materials to marketing, distribution and support to the final consumer; Women are workers, managers, entrepreneurs, or marketing agents. But, with less access to capital or training however, they are typically located at the low end of these chains.
In this context, the private sector has a critical role to play. Private companies and institutions should be encouraged to revisit their full value chain to identify where women are located, and what kind of support they might need to be able to add value to their products.
Financial institutions also have an important role. Building on the success of microfinance in empowering poor women in Cambodia, they should explore how they can increase women’s access to a range of financial services, including savings instruments, remittance transfer services, credit and insurance. This is particularly important for women-owned small- and medium-size enterprises, as they transition from microfinance to ‘’mainstream commercial banks’’.
Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To advance MDG acceleration agenda at the global level, the UN has developed a practical tool, the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) that can help country level to identify bottlenecks, solutions and smart investments needed to accelerate progress on lagging MDGs.
In 2012, Cambodia has been selected to apply the MDG Acceleration Framework with a focus on CMDG 3, particularly promotion of women’s economic empowerment. The MAF will result in an agreed Action Plan to accelerate the efforts of the government and its partners, including the private sector, on improving women’s opportunities in the economic sphere.
A forum such as the one we are having today will bring us a little closer to better understanding the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and help us identify successful interventions and partnerships on how to move together in providing efficient and effective support to women entrepreneurs and business associations.
UNDP is honored to be part of this exercise. I look forward to having fruitful discussions today and strong follow up actions in the future.