iDE Global

Business training provided to women under a new iDE Cambodia program

iDE plans to further roll out SHE’s expertise in training and coaching women entrepreneurs

Waste picker Nov Soroeun listens closely as a presenter uses a whiteboard to explain business principles. Sitting in the back of an open-air restaurant in rural Cambodia with a dozen other – mostly women – waste collectors, Nov carefully completes paper-based exercises on concepts like value propositions and budgeting.

While it might feel like a long way from the murky waters of Tonle Sap, where she spends her days collecting plastic waste from around the lake’s floating villages, Nov is happy she came today. “I learned a lot from the training incubator. That’s why I gave up my time to be here,” says the 62-year-old.

The 13-day incubator, spread over six months, is being conducted by SHE (Support Her Enterprises), a 10-year-old social enterprise committed to supporting women-led micro enterprises. Last month SHE was integrated as a program within iDE Cambodia, and continues to design and deliver gender-focused, culturally-tailored business incubator and accelerator programs for women across the country.

“SHE has a strong and well-deserved reputation for delivering high-impact business training, along with other support services for entrepreneurs, that support Cambodian businesswomen to be financially successful and prosper on their own terms,” said iDE Cambodia country director Kevin Robbins. 

Robbins said women-led businesses played an essential role in creating jobs, raising standards of living, and boosting inclusive growth. However, women faced a wide range of challenges, including access to right-fit and affordable finance, technology, and support services.

“By focusing on women entrepreneurs, iDE and the SHE program can empower whole communities, boosting prosperity and wellbeing. Evidence shows, for example, that women are more likely to invest their earnings in their children’s health and education.”

iDE plans to further roll out SHE’s expertise in training and coaching women entrepreneurs, using its extensive footprint across rural Cambodia and successful track record in inclusive market development. Under the new arrangement, SHE staff are now based in iDE's Phnom Penh and Siem Reap offices, and SHE’s current branding is changing to include the tagline "powered by iDE".

The incubator Nov is attending falls under a broader European Union-funded project, Generating Resilient Environments and Promoting Socio-Economic Development of the East Tonle Sap, known as GREEN. Under the project, iDE is leading efforts dedicated to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), in part helping local women figure out how to effectively monetize the collection of plastic and other kinds of trash.

“To scale up their businesses and recruit staff, we want women to have a strong voice and be role models in the community,” says country manager Keisha Gani. She says that women run a significant number of small businesses in Cambodia, but are poorly supported with training and capital. “We believe that supporting women to be successful presents opportunity, not charity.”

SHE co-founder, Celia Boyd, said she was thrilled SHE’s work is continuing to grow and impact many more women, families and communities, as part of iDE.

“We are endlessly proud and grateful for the many people and partners who have been a part of SHE’s journey, and the incredible women across Cambodia who we have been lucky enough to work with on their own business journeys,” said SHE co-founder, Celia Boyd.

Back on the Tonle Sap, Nov pulls her traditional long boat alongside floating wooden houses that form villages on the lake, squeaking a horn, alerting the families inside to her presence. If a household hands her a haul of empty plastic water bottles, she will give them a modest payment based on the bottles’ weight, and then make a small profit when she sells them at the collection point of a private recycling company.

While her margins are small, Nov is happy in her work. As a widow, she says her livelihood opportunities are few. Fishing is the main source of income in these low-income lakeside and floating communities, but the industry is strictly regulated, limiting its profitability — and traditionally dominated by men. “It is hard work. But I really like this business,” Nov says about waste picking. “Besides, I have no choice. I am a woman and I am reaching old age. And it helps the environment.”

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