Bopha Pen: There are many ways for youth to promote financial literacy

Bopha Pen is the CEO of Rithipul Co., Ltd, a company providing financial education for Cambodian youth and community. She also is a board member of the Federation of Education Service in Cambodia and the country lead of YSEALI Women Leadership Academy. Before becoming the CEO of Rithipul Co., Ltd, Bopha worked with a few local non-governmental organizations and companies in Cambodia. Bopha wants to promote the livelihood of young people and community through strengthening their financial literacy knowledge.  

Bopha Pen’s interview with Next Women Generation

[Below is interview’s translation which is edited for clarity.]

Q: Hello Bang! How are you doing?

Bopha: I am a bit busy these days. I should be busier if we don’t have a lockdown. When Phnom Penh is under lockdown, I am less busy. I used to be active, so I always find something to do. I am less occupied with work but spend more time on housework and children. I have a few children.

Q: Can you share how you manage your time working from home and taking care of your children during this lockdown?

Bopha: I had a house helper before. My parents and parents-in-law also helped me a lot. Since mid-2020, we decided to take care of all stuff by ourselves, and my house helper also went back to her hometown. We are a family of five. My husband and I take turns to take care of our children. Before the lockdown, I prepared breakfast for my children and husband. Then, my children went to school with the school bus. They had lunch at school. In the evening, we helped each other to cook and clean. During this lockdown, I spend more time with my children at home. I teach my children to cook, and they also teach me some menus that they learn from Youtube.

Q: I would like to ask you about your work. You work on financial literacy. When did you start working on this issue?

Bopha: My husband initiated it. He has worked with a bank since 2004. I have worked with a few local NGOs. I have worked on leadership, women’s empowerment, and economic empowerment. I got scholarship abroad because of my work. I have worked on life skills and soft skills.

In 2011, I studied OPERACY. I got a license in 2012. At that time, my husband created the Youth Financial Development Fund (YFDF). I would like to support youth. I came from the province. I have learned that some parents sold their property or animals to send their children to university. If young people did not manage their finance well, the budget would not be enough for them to live in the city. Some young people were thoughtful with their spending, yet it was still difficult for them to live in the city. YFDF gave them some funds to buy a computer or attend a workshop. Some youth needed money to buy a motorbike to commute to school. We also trained them about financial literacy so that they knew how to manage their finance.

We transformed YFDF to be the KARUNA Training Center in 2015. We wanted to promote the livelihood of people through financial literacy. We got financial support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to run our organization. I supported the center in providing soft skills training. When we talked about financial literacy, we talked about saving, financial management, investment, and entrepreneurship. No matter who you are, you will need to have a financial plan when you want to do something. 

It was a successful program. We collaborated with another organization to provide training, mentoring, and coaching to more than 300 women in 8 provinces between 2015 and 2017. I see that financial literacy is an important program to promote the livelihood of the community.

I have worked with the private sector for about three years, between 2017 and 2020. Even though I worked with the private sector, I still used the concept of educator. For example, even though my task was to sell a condo, I sold it with value. I thought about people before profit. When I managed sell teams, I thought about the value added to the buyers.

In 2019, my husband transformed the KARUNA Training Center to be Puthipul Co., Ltd. Then, we changed its name to Rithipul Co., Ltd. We created a Mobile App to note income and spending. At that time, we needed resources to expand our work to make more impact. It was a big project to help Cambodia. We want to leave a legacy for our children. We work with the Ministry of women’s Affairs, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, some private sectors, and some projects that I received a scholarship to the US and Japan.

We want to make a more significant impact. I am currently the CEO of Rithipul Co., Ltd. I generally managed the company. We have three programs. We have a training program on financial literacy. We used to have face-to-face training before COVID-19. We integrated online training before the pandemic. We also created Mobile App because we trained the community, students, and staff of private companies. After gaining financial literacy knowledge, they could note their expansion and income on paper or excel form. When we create App Kot Luy, they can note all of these on our app. They can monitor their finance every day, every week, or every month. This app is their financial checkup method. We also have a consultancy service for people who want to start a business.

Q: Your company created a Mobile App. Some users concern about online security. Have you discussed in your company data privacy, and how do you address this issue?

Bopha: Our expert thought about it. We used AWS, which protects the privacy of users. We can access only the phone number of users because it is required for App user registration. We can know if users are active users or not on our app. We are not able to check or read data that users put on our app. It is an international security standard.

Q: You are a mother and woman working in the technology field. What challenges that have you faced?

Bopha: It was challenging for me when I first started it because it was new to me. I have learned a lot about it. Because my husband established this company and worked in this field, he taught me a lot. I do not demand myself to know everything. I know how to manage the company generally. I don’t need to understand the technical aspect. When talking about technical things, I ask my expert to join. Some questions I can answer, and some I can’t. I need to refer to my technical staff. This is how I challenge myself.

Q: Do you have messages for youth who want to work on financial literacy?

Bopha: They need to know if they enjoy working on it. If they feel that they can be resources to promote financial literacy, they should go for it. If they just see other people do it and want to follow, they may not keep up with its momentum. They need to know what they like and find an opportunity to do it. There are many opportunities. They can form a group and work on it. If they lack skills, they can source out technical persons to help them. For instance, at Rithipul Co., Ltd, we have Cambodian Community for Finance Education. They can join us. They can learn about financial literacy, and they can participate in promoting financial literacy. We have a community outreach program, competition, and other training. So, we have a pool of experts.

They can use our app if they want to keep track of their finance. In the app, we have financial education and life skills programs. So they can see their credit score to manage and change spending attitude by using our app.

In short, they can promote financial literacy if they think it is necessary and they like it. They can start to learn from themselves, find more information, and learn from our app. They can follow our company’s social media to know about it. They can learn it from other sources as well.  

Q: Thank you so much for joining me today.

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