PHNOM PENH — A coffee production program created by USAID trains female business leaders in Southeast Asia. These women use their skills to train other female entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, achieving a greater degree of independence and self-sufficiency.
Women are educated in the varieties of coffee grown in Cambodia, and they then select the type of coffee they want to grow. And as they gain the skills they need to build successful businesses, they also learn to balance the demands and responsibilities of work and family.
Empowering female entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to succeed as business owners is a part of its future economic growth.
The program is a part of USAID’s initiative to invest in gender equality and empower women globally. The organization recognizes that women represent half of potential human capital in an economy, and building a prosperous female labor force is key to building a prosperous country.
According to the World Bank, Cambodia experienced a 7.6 percent average growth rate between 1994 and 2015. It is a new lower-middle-income economy. The World Bank analyzed current economic trends and developed recommendations for the country to continue its positive growth.
In the report, titled, “Cambodia: Sustaining Strong Growth for the Benefit of All”, the World Bank outlined several areas of development that would contribute to sustainable growth in the country. These included boosting public and private investment in infrastructure, and machinery acquisition while also developing capital markets. In other words, building up a strong, skilled and enabled populace to strengthen infrastructure.
This is human capital, of which female entrepreneurs are an invaluable part. “To reap the demographic dividend and address increasing demand by entrepreneurs for skilled workers, Cambodia would need to introduce measures to improve learning outcomes significantly and foster attainment in secondary education, higher education, and TVET skills training,” the World Bank reported.
The benefits of the program lie in its ability to build skill sets within Cambodia’s rural communities, which represent a significant portion of its population. As such, the agricultural industry poses both the challenge to build the skills of rural populations in growing their own businesses, and the potential to grow economies by building such skill sets.
Reaching female entrepreneurs across Cambodia is also occurring through community forums like the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA). The Facebook group utilizes social media to provide businesswomen with a platform to lobby government, improve the business environment of the country and facilitate business growth for women involved.
The group formed in 2011 under the initial support of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. According to CWEA, the community currently has more than 300 registered female business owners.
Financial independence for women can enable them to make wise decisions for their future and the future of their families. By bringing initiatives like the coffee production training program for female entrepreneurs, USAID is making strides to build this independence.
– Hannah Pickering