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Shiseido launches womens’ empowerment initiative in Cambodia

Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido has partnered with The Asia Foundation to launch the Girls Learning and Leading Program (GLL) in Cambodia.

Designed to improve retention and completion of girls’ secondary education – a critical time when young women are most likely to drop out of school to find paying jobs – the program aims to equalise access to education, opportunity and mentorship for marginalised women in Southeast Asia.

The program will provide material support to provide students basic and practical needs including books, stationery, and rice for their families, which help lift an often-daunting economic burden; soft-skills development to train their soft skills, such as leadership, communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and team building, as well as mentoring support for tertiary education and career pathways; academic support by providing English language training, extracurricular classes in STEM subjects such as mathematics and science; and mentorship to inspire and provide them a safe space to share their challenges, experiences and ideas.

In Cambodia, education is a key component of its development goals, hence chosen as the inaugural location of the program.

Greater access to education is one proven way to ensure that young women can lift themselves and their families out of poverty and better contribute to the development of their communities and their country, the company said in its press release.

While Cambodia has made strides in offering equal access to education for boys and girls, a substantial gender disparity remains. The literacy rate is 70.9 per cent for adult females and 85.1 per cent for adult males in Cambodia. Females make up more than half the population but represent a minority of university graduates. Proactive measures in combating poverty, cultural norms, and access to schools in rural Cambodia are necessary to keep girls in secondary school, it adds.

“Women are the heart and soul of Shiseido’s business. I firmly believe that beauty can change the world; and that we as a company are well-placed to make a lasting, positive impact that equalises the opportunities for young women and empowers them through learning and mentorship,” says Shiseido Asia Pacific president and CEO Jean-Philippe Charrier.

Nonprofit international development organisation The Asia Foundation has two decades of on-the-ground experience in the country, making it a strong partner, the company adds.

“Through our strong partnership with The Asia Foundation, I hope the Girls Learning & Leading Program will enable our young Cambodian scholars to successfully obtain a higher education, learn critical leadership and soft skills that will secure a better future for them and their families.”

The program’s pilot phase runs from May to December 2019, and provides scholarships to female students – giving them access to secondary education, mentorship, and career pathways.

This year, the program will provide scholarships to 102 female students ages 16 to 19 studying in grades 10 – 12 at Norodom Secondary School in rural Prey Veng province, a 2.5-hour drive from the capital.

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