Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Human Trafficking Survivor Inspires at Women's Conference

From the "And You Thought You Had It Rough" file...

I spent Monday and Tuesday at Maria Shriver's Women's Conference in Long Beach, Calif. Even though I was there to work at my company's booth, there was time to sneak away and watch some of the amazing speakers they'd assembled.

While I was in awe of seeing Annie Leibovitz talk to Katie Couric (Annie was influential in my development as a photographer and photojournalist), and absolutely gobsmacked by the opportunity to meet and chat with Jane Goodall, nothing prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster ride that was Somaly Mam.

Somaly Mam, Cambodian sex slave survivor and activist
(photo courtesy of Washington Post)

In case you ever thought you had it rough, or needed a good kick in the ass to get up and do something about life, here's an excerpt from her bio:

Somaly Mam was born in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia...and was sold many times by her grandfather as a slave and coerced into prostitution.

She was forced to work in a brothel with many other young girls that were treated horrifically through torture, manipulation, and scare tactics. One night she watched a close friend murdered by a pimp. At this moment, Somaly realized that she was trapped in a dangerous and desperate world. She made it her mission to escape and later find a way to stop this vicious cycle. Her past is a major contributing factor regarding her passion and effort to help young children and women involved with human trafficking.

Somaly later returned to Cambodia to bring back some of her experience and ideas to her homeland. She became co-founder of AFESIP and President of AFESIP Cambodia in Phnom Penh. This organization's main cause is the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration specifically with prostitutes as well as with trafficked persons in need. Somaly says the organization has saved more than 5,000 girls since its founding in 1996.

So what are you doing today to make a difference?


Ben said...

My name is Ben, and I helped ran operations for the film Call+Response (, a 'rockumentary' about human trafficking and modern day slavery. One of the projects we funded via the film was with Somaly Mam! I ran across your blog randomly, and it was so neat to see your post about her work!

Kara said...

Wow! Way cool Ben. Awesome work.

Anonymous said...

As little as $5 can make a difference