Our Strategy

Harpswell seeks to bring about positive social change in Southeast Asia through the action and equal participation of women. We run two residential leadership centers for young women in Cambodia while they attend university in Phnom Penh, and a leadership training program in Malaysia for young professional women from the ten ASEAN countries across Southeast Asia. Our strategic approach is three-fold:

Provide a safe place to


The cost and dangers of living in Phnom Penh—and family resistance— are significant barriers that prohibit many bright young women from accessing university. And for young women coming together from across Southeast Asia, a safe and secure place to gather while learning is critical to their success.We are filling this gap: we built and run Cambodia’s first—and only—residential centers for young women attending university in Phnom Penh. In Malaysia, we provide a safe residential experience for accomplished young women leaders from across the region to come together to learn and freely exchange ideas.

Develop leadership and critical thinking skills

Persistent cultural norms in much of Southeast Asia discourage girls’ higher education, and traditional education in the region lacks training in independent  thinking. Young women typically have few role models and opportunities for mentorship by successful, forward-looking women leaders in their communities.

We provide our students with a rigorous program in news analysis, analytical writing, debate, and other activities to develop critical thinking and leadership skills. We invite distinguished local and international leaders to speak at our programs to offer inspiration and practical guidance. Dorm life is run by student leaders and our programs are directed by local women leaders, the majority of whom are Harpswell graduates.

Build a lifetime support


Women’s voices have the potential for transformative change, but are often unacknowledged. For young women forging their own path in patriarchal cultures, where few women before them have achieved academic and professional success, connection, mentorship, career guidance and support are essential.While at Harpswell, women forge strong bonds that they describe as a sisterhood. A strong alumnae support system connects them to informal and formal professional networks in their regions and beyond. Alumnae become powerful advocates for each other and for other women and girls in their communities.

“I have lived here for three years but what Harpswell has given me can’t be described in three years! It’s a place I call home. It teaches me how to love and take care of myself as well as others around me. It gives me hope and nurtures my ambition. I have become more confident and believe that everything is possible. I’ve seen those women who walked before me and they have set a high standard for me. It inspires me to work hard and aim high in life.” – Harpswell Student