Australia and Cambodia collaborated on a recent consultative workshop which focused on the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation’s Gender Mainstreaming Plan (GMAP).

The aim is to advance gender equality within the industrial sector and among small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Held in Phnom Penh on September 28, the workshop received support from the Cambodia-Australia Partnership Programme for Sustainable Economic Development.

It brought together representatives of SMEs, business associations, NGOs, development partners and relevant ministries.

Industry minister Hem Vandy reaffirmed his ministry’s commitment to creating opportunities for women, children and individuals with disabilities in various institutions.

“The ministry is dedicated to the pursuit of gender equality and ensuring that all individuals receive equitable and meaningful benefits,” said a joint press release by the ministry the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.

“It is committed to advancing gender equality, inclusion for individuals with disabilities and overall social inclusiveness within our initiatives. The revision of this gender mainstreaming strategic plan marks a significant milestone in our pursuit of these objectives,” it added.

It explained that by upholding inclusive principles, the ministry will harness untapped potential within the community, leading to a more effective contribution to the Cambodian government’s Pentagonal Strategy, which prioritises growth, employment, equity, efficiency and sustainability.

Australian ambassador Justin Whyatt expressed his pleasure at the partnership with the ministry.

“We are proud to partner with them on this important initiative. We believe this action plan will help Cambodian women to equally benefit from the national economy. Australia is committed to supporting Cambodia in achieving resilient, inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” he was quoted as saying.

The release said GMAP will serve as a roadmap for the ministry to incorporate gender mainstreaming into its operations.

The update to GMAP is crucial to align with evolving social priorities.

Leang Leng, the proprietor of his namesake enterprise, believed that promoting gender equality makes a valuable contribution to society. The workshops offered clear and pertinent information concerning child labour, women’s rights and the employment of individuals with disabilities.

He noted that some family business owners may lack an understanding of child rights and occasionally involve children in tasks exceeding their capacity, which can lead to overwork and potential risks.

“The workshop offered valuable insights to SMEs and provided resources related to labour practices. It is commendable because individuals, regardless of age, disability, gender or ethnicity, have the rights to pursue suitable employment opportunities that involve training to ensure a comprehensive understanding of their tasks,” he said.

Leng explained that his business emphasises gender issues by implementing a workplace policy that prioritises the protection of women, children and individuals with disabilities. Internal rules mandate that all employees must demonstrate respect, care and priority for these groups.

The embassy stated that Australia’s assistance to Cambodia places a significant focus on promoting gender equality, as it is both the right and strategic course of action.

Gender equality is seen as a key factor in helping Cambodia achieve its socio-economic objectives, it added.

A World Bank report indicated that nearly 90 per cent of all businesses in Cambodia fall into the micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) category, with over 60 per cent of them being women-owned.