Inspirational Woman: Somaly Mam | Founder of Somaly Mam Foundation

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Photograph taken by Michael_Angelo

Human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry, is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, with over two million women and children sold into sex slavery each year. This is more than a women’s issue: this is a global crisis, and it must end.

Photograph taken by Olivia Dufour

Somaly Mam is a survivor of sex slavery and a global leader in the fight to end it. Born into a tribal minority family in Cambodia and sold at age 12, she endured a decade of exploitation and abuse – but she bravely escaped her captors, and vowed never to forget those she left behind. Somaly has dedicated her life’s work to saving victims, running shelters for recovery and skills training, and empowering survivors to build independent lives of dignity. Her holistic approach ensures these women and children not only escape their plight for good, but have the emotional and economic strength to face the future with hope.

Photograph by Hayley Welgus

In 2007, with the help of two American men, she founded the Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting anti-trafficking efforts in Southeast Asia, empowering survivors as part of the solution, and engaging governments, corporations and individuals in a multilateral solution-driven approach to end slavery.

Somaly estimates that she has saved over 7,000 women and children to date, and she has been recognized as a CNN Hero, one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women, a Glamour Woman of the Year, recipient of the World Children’s Prize, and by the US Department of Homeland Security for her work. Despite threats to her life and a complex political environment, she continues to live and work in Phnom Penh.

This year, Somaly Mam and the Somaly Mam Foundation are a part of the Half the Sky Transmedia Project and PBS special. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower the women that are leading the change. The series will premiere in the US October 1 & 2, 2012, with an international broadcast to follow.

Check out her blog coming soon!

In her blog post, Somaly Mam will offer insight into solutions to ending sex slavery, according to her method of helping the victims to become survivors, and survivors to become a part of the solution. But in an issue as complex as human trafficking, the solution must be too. Somaly lends a survivor voice to her organization’s multi-tiered approach, and she knows from experience that there is hope—but no quick fix.


Somaly Mam Foundation
Twitter @somalymam
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