WIG: Connecting women in Phnom Penh

So you’ve moved to Cambodia, you want to meet other women and make some friends, and maybe find a way of giving something back to your new home. Perhaps you’re starting up a business and hope to learn from the experience of other business owners. If this sounds like you, there’s a group of people in Phnom Penh you need to meet — and you can do so every Wednesday morning over coffee!

With good company, good causes – and good coffee! Photo courtesy of WIG.

The Women’s International Group, aka WIG, was set up in 1994 as a social and charitable circle for the capital’s female expats who wanted to connect with other, like-minded individuals, and to make a difference in Cambodia. Since then the group has evolved to reflect the interests and aspirations of its diverse and fluctuating membership that increasingly includes Cambodian women many of whom have careers, families, and juggle busy lives. As well as a means of enjoying good company and supporting good causes country-wide, it provides a valuable networking opportunity for women in business. Happily, the three frequently work hand in hand, especially as many of the small businesses owned by members are social enterprises.

The Group currently has around eighty members — ages range from twenties to retired — from more than thirty five countries and a diverse assortment of backgrounds and experiences. Altogether, a clued-up bunch of women with an admirable array of professional knowledge, personal interests and a wealth of tips and advice to share about life in the Kingdom of Wonder.

Meeting of the WIG Community Fund Committee. Photo courtesy of WIG.

The group’s approach is genuinely welcoming and inclusive. Members are encouraged to get as involved as they have the time and inclination to, with the work of the group’s various social, fund-raising and other committees, though there’s no pressure to participate. The opportunity is there, however, to bring individual skills and know-how to the various projects and to take on new challenges. Alternatively members can just dip into the ongoing program of activities that range from afternoon tea to sundown drinks; mahjong to tennis; art and craft workshops to family outings and bespoke events that highlight Khmer culture and the cultures of members from around the world. Plus regular member talks and presentations, lunches, and of course the weekly coffee catch-up. There’s a weekly newsletter and member discounts to be had from a number of retailers, outlets, and services.

At the heart of it all is the WIG Community Fund, and the group’s dedication to and enthusiasm for its philanthropic mission is evident. A well-informed committee is in place to coordinate activities and oversee grant allocations, and ideas and input from members in general are welcomed to help keep efforts fresh and relevant. The group maintains a close relationship with the organizations and projects it supports among Cambodia’s disadvantaged communities, all of which are keenly and transparently assessed in advance, and some of its members are directly involved in their work.

Members visited Wat Botum for a traditional Khmer New Year blessing and tour of the pagoda. Photo courtesy of WIG.

The most significant event in the WIG fundraising calendar — a particular buzz for members who love to exercise their creative and organizational skills — is its annual Christmas Fair, in fact a day of full-on family fun, that regularly swells the Community Fund coffers by around $25,000. The event typically attracts well over a hundred stall holders selling crafts, fashion, food, locally-made products, and more; a variety of entertainment; and the support of major sponsors. The 2022 Christmas Fair is scheduled for Saturday 27 November at the Canadian International School (CIS) on Koh Pich.

A weekly diary date

Women’s International Group’s coffee chats are held every Wednesday from 10:00am to 11:30 a.m. Venues can vary, though they’re always in central locations, so check the organization’s Facebook page in advance. Non-members are welcome to pop in to learn more about the Group, join up, or just to chat. Annual membership is currently priced at $25 per year and an online application form is available at wigcambodia.org/join.

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