Empower Women Together: CARE and Lady Saving Group unite for impact in Cambodia

New Lady Saving Group Member Many Sun

New Lady Saving Group Member Many Sun

In a nation where women’s empowerment is crucially needed, local partnerships are proving to be a beacon of hope. Cambodia has long faced challenges related to gender inequality and economic disparity. Through the Feminists in Action initiative funded by the Agence Française de Développement, CARE has formed a transformative and equitable partnership with Lady Saving Group. Lady Savings Group is one of six local women’s rights organizations participating in the Feminists in Action initiative. This initiative encourages local organizations to take the lead and ownership of the work they are doing at community level, relying on CARE to enhance their financial, technical, and organizational capacity. These partnerships demonstrate the power of collaboration in fostering positive change within communities, moving towards a more gender equal world.

Ms. Virak Bonnarath, the Co-founder and Program Manager of Lady Saving Group, is at the forefront of this partnership. She oversees the development of Lady Saving Group’s strategic plans, fundraising efforts, and project management. Bonnarath envisions Lady Saving Group as a catalyst for women’s economic progress, explaining, “We aim to promote women’s economic status by coordinating a mutual saving, credit, and a learning platform where members can access financial resources to support their education, family, and businesses and build capacity on leadership and entrepreneurship.”

The Lady Saving Group – Where ambition, community and business unite

With the support of Feminists in Action, the Lady Saving Group has been able to extend its reach and impact. Bonnarath explained, “Initially we had 267 women members from diverse backgrounds, all saving money in the group and receiving regular training and resources on health, self-development, and business management.” Since joining the Feminists in Action initiative, the Lady saving group have scaled up their efforts, this year providing an additional 100 women entrepreneurs with financial resources and educational opportunities.

Ms. Virak Bonnarath during LSG's Annual General Assembly

“We aim to directly reach more than 200 new participants next year with continued support from the Feminists in Action initiative” Bonnarath shared.

This platform empowers women to voice their opinions on topics related to gender norms, breaking down barriers that hinder their development and overall well-being. “By giving women knowledge, financial resources, networks, and a safe space to speak up, they will be empowered to fully own their lives with dignity,” Bonnarath shares enthusiastically when she talks of the “Women 21st Century Talk Show” that was organized as part of the same initiative.

“The invaluable aspect of the Feminists in Action project lies in its support for social movement groups like Lady Savings Group, which often face challenges in securing funds from certain donors. These funds are essential to bolster our operational capabilities, enabling us to effectively serve women in our target communities. While we appreciate the allocation for project activities, it’s crucial that there be flexibility in the proportion of operation costs versus project costs. This consideration is vital, as operation costs play a pivotal role in sustaining and propelling the growth of non-registered organizations like ours” shared Bonnarath.

Bonnarath added “Along with financial support, from working with CARE and the other local organizations, we have learned that collaboration or group learning is highly effective for solving issues and truly empowering people, so we have embedded this working culture within our organization and target group”.

Life-changing circle of support

In the eyes of Rasin, a dedicated Lady Saving Group member since 2012, the membership has been life changing. “Lady Saving Group is my second family,” she declared. As a mother of two, Rasin is a hard worker striving for a good quality of life for her family. She works full time at a private company and founded Mak Nom Bakery & Desserts which she spends a lot of her time baking for. Rasin found a supportive community within the Lady Saving Group and learnt how to find more balance and financial freedom in her professional life and for her family’s happiness.

The Lady Saving Group offer a range of training sessions for all members to join free of charge, including sessions on work life balance, financial literacy, entrepreneurial leadership as well as mentoring and coaching programs.  Rasin’s journey with Lady Saving Group has not only enhanced her business skills but has also boosted her confidence and social connections, “In this comfort zone we can share all of our life’s problems, and we feel like we are never alone, the members always help each other and motivate each other” she adds. Rasin’s journey with Lady Saving Group has not only enhanced her business skills but has also boosted her confidence and social connections.

Ms Rasin (third from the right) with other Lady Saving Group Members

Many, a trainee in the Lady Savings Group training program set up with the support from CARE’s Feminists in Action project, has experienced firsthand the transformative power of learning and support. “Throughout the five training sessions so far, I have learned about self-discovery, business plan development, and financial management,” Many explained. Born in the countryside in Takeo province, she now resides in Phnom Penh where she runs a small street cart business selling coffee and beverages. The knowledge gained from this program has ignited a newfound sense of purpose and ambition in her entrepreneurial journey. Many also shared, “I think all the content in the training is really necessary for women entrepreneurs at my level because so far we just run the business without any set goals, business knowledge, or formal systems.” Facing limited financial resources and access to loans, the training has provided Many with a much-needed support system and a roadmap to success.

Many receiving one on one mentoring and coaching

A two-way street of shared learnings

CARE International in Cambodia’s Program Director, Meas Sopheareak shared that vulnerable groups, particularly women, are often at the forefront of promoting equality, she emphasized “Women-led movements are pivotal in developing solutions, yet they often lack access to essential resources. Through this project, CARE has learned to ensure that our internal policies and procedures are accessible to local organizations while still ensuring we are both held accountable to our promises. By simplifying internal procedures, we are adjusting the common bureaucratic barriers that often come with working with international organizations or donors”.

Bonnarath also shared her recommendations, “for organizations looking to work together like CARE and Lady Saving Group, my recommendation would be to really invest time in building connection to understand each other and to have real trust and strong communication throughout the partnership”.The CARE and Lady Saving Group partnership, through the Feminists in Action initiative, exemplifies the potential for equitable partnerships to catalyze women’s empowerment and economic growth. By supporting local organizations like Lady Saving Group, the Feminists in Action initiative contributes to the long-term sustainability of women-focused initiatives, allowing them to fulfill their missions and visions effectively.