The Entrepreneurial Journey for People with Disabilities in Cambodia

Published: Oct 6, 2022 Reading time: 6 minutes
The Entrepreneurial Journey for People with Disabilities in Cambodia
© Photo: PIN Cambodia

Inclusive employment enables individuals to gain access to decent work opportunities without any discrimination, especially for People with Disabilities (PwDs). In line with its national agenda, policies, and priorities, Cambodia has been committed to ensuring equal access to decent education, inclusive employment, and as well as promoting non-discriminatory hiring practices in the country, to further support the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically, on “Quality Education” (SDG 4), “Decent Work and Economic Growth” (SDG 8), and “Reduced Inequalities” (SDG 10)

Within Cambodia’s population, people with disabilities are estimated to represent 2 to 9.5%. Generally, they are most likely to live in poverty due to unequal access to education and discriminatory hiring practices. For instance, this has created a gap in attaining proper education between children with disabilities, wherein only 44% of children without disabilities have completed primary school, compared to 73% of youth without disabilities. This gap continues to increase as the level of education advances. Hence, in order to the ensure sustainable transition of PwDs to decent and appropriate employment opportunities, it is important to address the underlying prejudices, misunderstandings and constraints of the vocational training sector and the hiring process of the private sector.  

The skills offered by TVET centers often are insufficient to meet the requirements of employers. Employers need both soft and hard skills. However, persons with disabilities often lack soft skills, such as communication, and self-confidence, among others. There is an urgent need to provide greater opportunities to develop skills and qualifications relevant to the labor market by making TVET facilities disability inclusive.  If accessible and matched to the needs of the job market, vocational training will enable PwDs to gain specific skills for employment and therefore increasing their chances of breaking out of the cycle of poverty and social isolation.  

To further support the agenda of the Royal Government of Cambodia in ensuring inclusive employment and decent education in Cambodia, the Czech Republic Development Agency (Czech Aid) has funded a project, Towards Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities, implemented by People in Need and Agile Development Group, which seeks to improve access to decent job opportunities for the PwDs, as a result of (i) gaining relevant skills matching the needs of the private sector, (ii) supporting PwDs to start their own enterprise, (iii) and more inclusive practices from employers. The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute to increased employability and employment opportunities of PwDs in Cambodia.  

The project aims to deliver entrepreneurship and business development training to students with disabilities, who have completed and/or are currently enrolled in the TVET courses are planning to undertake entrepreneurial activities. A total of 15 trainees completed five modules of the Entrepreneurship Training developed by Agile Development Group. The training provided students with an understanding of business management, business development, leadership, marketing, accounting, and financial literacy. The “Entrepreneurship Training for People with Disabilities (PwDs)” was conducted at the Posen Chey Social Development Center of JCIA Organization and Samneang Music Association for the Disabled. 

The Entrepreneurship Training

After 2 months of (16 July-17 September) intensive training with the students, on 17th September, the students finally completed all five modules of the training and have been awarded certificates. The students presented their final business plans, proving their skills in how to develop action plans to grow their business ideas in a step-by-step process as taught throughout the courses.

“Today, I presented a business plan for an electronics shop and repairing electrical equipment. The training was helpful as I learned what we need to prepare to start a business. It was also able me to become more confident in decision making for the business”, shares Lay Chhum, a student from Kampong Speu province. Due to the safety restrictions from COVID-19, Chhum had to postpone his studies at JCIA for two years. Chhum had been in a fire accident which had caused him to lose his right leg. Despite this physical hardship, Chhum wanted to persevere and supported his brother to make furniture. After joining the workshops, Chhum felt extremely proud and confident with his newly attained knowledge in business management, finance, marketing, expenses management, and most especially, decision making. He said that he had more courage to express himself and socialise with other people.

No matter the challenges in life, Chhum is confident that he can run his small business, and at the same time, help his brother work to earn extra income for their family. “I would like to encourage people with disabilities that even though we are disabled, our hearts are not, and (we) can do anything if we put our heart in it”, shares Chhum. 

Indeed, this training puts at its core confidence, hope, and courage for people with disabilities. The project will contribute towards inclusive and decent employment as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is through these types of training that can further empower people with disabilities and help them realise their potential to become business owners.

Another student who graduated from the Entrepreneurship Training is Hoeun Navy. Navy is from Tbong Khmum province, but currently lives with the Samneang Music Association for the Disabled. She studied at JCIA for 2 months on entrepreneurship. Prior to joining the workshops, she volunteered to chair the Women’s Committee of Samneang Music Association. “This workshop gave me a lot of ideas related to projects and businesses, especially focusing on communication skills”, says Navy. Despite Navy’s visual impairment, she expressed her confidence in building her own business in the future, after gaining concrete knowledge and skills throughout the training. “I presented a business plan related to the sale of products online, such as bags and shoes. After graduating, I plan to start an online business as a distributor of these products”, shares Navy.  

Through the project, People in Need and Agile Development Group believe that the Entrepreneurship training will support people with disabilities to start their own enterprises in the future, which in turn increases economic opportunities for them. No disability should hinder one’s personal development, aspiration, and perusal of dreams. Anything is possible through a collective effort towards building an enabling environment for people with disabilities to excel in the employment market. 

Autor: Johanna Legarta, PIN Cambodia Communications Manager

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