Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the WECREATE Cambodia Handover Ceremony

WECREATE Cambodia, Phnom Penh
November 30, 2016

Your Excellency Dr. ING Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s affairs, representatives of WeCreate, distinguished guests, mentors, and women entrepreneurs, ladies and gentlemen—good morning.

I am delighted to be here with you today to sign this Memorandum of Understanding recognizing our shared commitment to supporting WECREATE. I’m particularly delighted to share the stage with Minister Phavi, who has been a longtime friend and partner of the Embassy and a real leader on our shared goal of promoting economic and social opportunity for Cambodian women.

Madam Minister, your work to promote gender balance in Cambodian society, end domestic violence, advance women’s political participation, and promote concrete initiatives like the Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital and the Clean Cooking Forum are all critically important for Cambodia’s development.

Just last month, WECREATE officially handed over its management to Paz Y Desarrollo or PyD, a creative and committed development organization with experience in nearly a dozen countries around the world. That handover represented WECREATE’s first step towards self-sufficiency and paved the way for the MOU we are about to sign today.

Since WECREATE opened a little more than a year ago, over 1,000 women have benefited from the center’s training, mentoring, networking, and workshops. My wife Sotie, our Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung, and other members of the Embassy’s staff have been guest speakers at WECREATE, and have benefited from hearing about the challenges and opportunities to doing business in Cambodia.

Cambodia’s economy has developed rapidly over the past 15 years. Poverty has declined, social and health indicators have improved, and the standard of living of the Cambodian people have risen.

But this economic success has brought a new set of challenges as Cambodia seeks to compete in the ASEAN Economic Community and other markets around the world. In order to continue growing, Cambodia will need more entrepreneurs willing to diversify, move to higher value added industries, and build the small and medium enterprises that can help drive the economy.

Programs like WECREATE are designed to help Cambodia’s women seize these opportunities and contribute to Cambodia’s future growth. They empower women and give them a space to grow and develop. They support the entry of talented and creative women into the workforce and then support them with training and mentoring.

I’m proud of WECREATE’s successes over the past year. Let me give just one example. Mrs. Ly Sopha, the Co-Founder and CEO of KC Solar Co. Ltd., is a WECREATE alumnus here with us today who established her business in 2006 in Phnom Penh with just a few employees and a small amount of funds.

WECREATE helped her accelerate her business by walking her through the universal steps required to build a company. As a result, Sopha’s business has shown remarkable growth. She now has 25 employees, 40 percent of whom are female. Her revenue has increased substantially, and Sopha has recently made the strategic decision to expand her office locations in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampong Cham and Siem Reap.

It’s important to remember that entrepreneurs also need good role models and support from the Government. Minister Phavi, you have done both. Your Ministry has worked hard over the years to establish a gender balance in all areas of life in Cambodia. You personally have been a role model and inspiration for young Cambodian women, and your leadership in creating economic opportunities for women is opening doors for women across the country.

Thank you once again for inviting me to join this signing ceremony today. I look forward to very positive and beneficial collaboration with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, WECREATE, and PyD. Thank you very much.