Janice Wilson came to Cambodia from New York City in 2008 on a corporate legal assignment and never left. Struck by the plight of sex trafficking victims and recognizing a market need for the supply of human hair extensions, Ms Wilson founded an online manufacturing and retail social enterprise called Arjuni. The company provides a combination of employment, therapy and housing for female victims of human trafficking and raises global awareness about this social injustice. This summer, Shujog ACTS (Assistance for Capacity Building and Technical Services), a technical assistance program launched by Shujog in 2013, prepared Arjuni to raise capital by sharpening its business, financial and investor materials and providing a tool to articulate and measure its impact to global investors. With this help, Arjuni can attract investment capital, scale its business and improve the lives of even more vulnerable women.

Shujog ACTS was set up to focus on supporting SEs like Arjuni, where the majority of beneficiaries and/or stakeholders are women. We do this for one simple reason: A woman multiplies the impact of an investment because she drives development. When economically empowered, she ensures her family receives adequate nutrition, healthcare and education and plays a fundamental role in her community’s progress and development.

To date Shujog ACTS has supported eight Social Enterprises across Asia, half of which are run by women, in critical development sectors such as energy, agriculture, and livelihood development. The SEs supported are impacting over 54,000 direct beneficiaries and aim to mobilize US$3 million in impact investment, which will increase the number of beneficiaries benefited as the SEs grow. These SEs have already unlocked US$1.5 million in impact investments. By providing SE’s with a blend of subsidies and advance payments, ACTS is unique in reducing the reliance of social enterprises on traditional grant funding to grow and expand. The program also works to build a vibrant ecosystem for social finance by enlisting consulting firms to provide services to an emerging clientele: social enterprises and more importantly, those run by women. Facilities like ACTS are necessary if we want to see more women-run businesses have an impact on their communities and shape the future of their local economies. What better way to do this than to ensure that a woman is an ‘equal and active’ participant in addressing the developmental challenges that affect her own advancement.

 

By Taila Mueller
Manager, Shujog ACTS