Cambodia: an equitable business is a sustainable business

A pregnant woman and her husband stand side by side smiling outside their newly built sanitation business

Sovan and Bunsieng are capitalising on the skills and knowledge gained through the SHE Investments workshop to set long-term goals for their business (Tyler Kozole, iDE)


Ms. Romdol Sovan smiled as she opened her arms, pointing at the racks of accessories, toilets, sink fixtures, and other home and construction material on display in her store. One year ago, this was an empty plot of land.


For years Sovan owned and operated a beauty salon in neighbouring Banteay Meanchey province while her husband, Mr. Chhin Bunsieng, ran a small brick-making and latrine construction business in their home province of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The two had long discussed starting another business in Siem Reap that would allow them to live and work together. Plans had stalled lately and the couple weren't sure if this business dream would ever become a reality.


iDE had been working with Sovan's husband, Bunsieng, as a local latrine business owner for years and had gotten to know the family well. iDE is focused on supporting private sector delivery of sanitation in Cambodia, as part of their Water for Women project, WASH-SUP2, the team approached Sovan with an offer to join a business incubator program for female entrepreneurs and she leapt at the chance!


Over the course of a six-month workshop conducted by SHE Investments and iDE, Sovan and seven other women deepened their business skills and were coached in how to bring their business visions to life.


As Sovan discussed her newfound skill conducting negotiations, she explained, “(Before) I felt like I was a smaller person, afraid to negotiate with bigger, more important people.” Now she has a technique that involves researching quotations beforehand, setting a goal price point, and coming to the negotiation with a plan.


“I feel confident negotiating now. I’m not scared to deal with them and get the best price I can.”


With their second child a few months from being born, two successful businesses, and a plan to keep expanding and improving their operations together, Sovan and Bunsieng are optimistic about the future. Sovan’s eyes got brighter as she explained, “I just tell myself that three years from now life will be better. Three years from that, even better, and better, and better!”


iDE has long believed that as the sanitation market matures in Cambodia, the most agile latrine producing entrepreneurs will shift towards the model of a general hardware store. Sovan and Bunsieng are among those leading the charge, innovating and growing with the market. They proudly demonstrate that an equitable business is a sustainable business.


iDE's work in Cambodia is supported by the Australian Government through Water for Women, so far, they have reached 142,000 people with either basic or safely managed sanitation.

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World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19th.

On World Toilet Day, we celebrate the role of safe, accessible toilets as a building block of healthy and resilient communities.

But World Toilet Day is not just about toilets, it is also about the important role of the systems and people that surround and support adequate toilets to ensure they are sustainable and can withstand the impacts of climate change.

Water for Women partners are working hard to ensure all people within communities have access to safe and sustainable sanitation.


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