Promoting civic engagement through the WE Act project: A learning review
December 06, 2023
Women Entrepreneurs Act (WE Act) is a five-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development and implemented by Pact and Freedom House. Implemented from August 2019 through November 2023, WE Act was tasked with empowering Cambodian women and youth to fully realize their human rights within an operating environment marked by rapidly declining civic space. The WE Act team designed and executed a novel strategy for fostering civic engagement and promoting human rights fitted to the Cambodian context. Understanding that it was mandated with bringing “new” actors into civic engagement processes, WE Act combined economic strengthening activities targeting women entrepreneurs (i.e. micro and small businesses owners) and civic strengthening interventions focused on activities like advocacy and civic education. WE Act supported constituencies to advance their socioeconomic rights (SERs), which were seen as relevant to the lives of young women entrepreneurs (YWEs) and other youth, while less “sensitive” than civil-political rights. As a result,
WE Act sought to overcome communities’ and local partners’ fear of participating in advocacy-related processes by promoting engagement on issues around which there were opportunities for constructive dialogue with state and other authorities.
WE Act conducted a learning review aimed at critically examining its distinct strategy for promoting civic engagement. Specifically, the learning review focused on two questions: How did WE Act support civic engagement within a restricted political environment? and What does the WE Act experience hold for future programming in Cambodia and similar contexts? The learning review aimed at capturing the collective insights and lessons of the WE Act team, i.e. project staff, former staff and local partners. It was not an evaluation focused on validating assessments and did not include direct consultations with community-level beneficiaries. The learning review, however, complemented other end-of-project assessments, including a project led Outcome Harvesting report and external evaluation.
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