Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC), Phnom Penh
March 25, 2015
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to join today’s seminar on women’s entrepreneurship. We are here today to launch this seminar geared toward empowering the women of Cambodia. Investing in women’s skills and education provides society with a substantial return on its investment.
As President Obama said on International Women’s Day this year, “Empowering women isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. When women succeed, nations are more safe, more secure, and more prosperous.” As women join the economy, they invest their increased incomes in health care, food, and education for themselves and their families, multiplying the effect of their economic participation.
Encouraging entrepreneurship among women is a key component to making that happen. Entrepreneurship drives economic growth and, more than ever, women are playing a vital role in developing, nurturing, and maintaining successful businesses. I have seen firsthand the strength of Cambodia’s women and how they form the backbone of family and society here. They operate stores, manage businesses large and small, and keep farms and factories operating, often while taking care of a household and raising small children. Cambodia’s women truly keep this country running.
The intellect, talents, and skills of Cambodia’s women and girls must be fully appreciated and utilized in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. That is why I am so pleased to lend my support to initiatives such as this seminar on women’s entrepreneurship. This is a vital program for preparing the next generation of business leaders. I especially want to recognize the CEOs and executives who are here to share their experiences today.
Later this year, as a follow up to today’s seminar, the United States and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs will launch WECREATE Cambodia, which will create a women’s entrepreneurship center in Cambodia. Through this seminar and WECREATE, women will gain access to the resources they need to start and grow their own companies. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed when they develop support networks with local business mentors and role models who can provide advice and services. By connecting women around the world and providing access to opportunity, we can accelerate growth and enhance economic prosperity for all.
First Lady Michelle Obama just visited Japan and Cambodia to promote the Let Girls Learn initiative. In Siem Reap last weekend, she encouraged girls to stay in school, speak up, and use their voice to effect positive change in their communities and the world. As the First Lady highlighted, education is the first step towards women’s empowerment. The next step, which this seminar and WECREATE will provide, is to give women the skills and tools they need to succeed in business and in the job market.
When I was up in Siem Reap last week with Mrs. Obama at a local high school, I overheard the Khmer saying “satrey chea meada ney pee pope loak,” or “women are the mothers of the world.” In other words, women are the future, and empowering them will ensure that our future is a bright one. Hearing the First Lady speak to school children and others about her own background and family – which includes two daughters – and encouraging them to be strong in the face of adversity was an inspirational message.
I am honored to join the Ambassador Kumamaru Yuji and Secretary of State Chan Sorey in celebrating women’s empowerment and leadership. I would also like to personally thank the Japanese government for hosting and contributing to today’s seminar and the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs for its tireless support and cooperation. I hope all of you gain insights, exchange ideas, and support one another. I wish you success!