Somaly Mam has dedicated her life to saving victims of human trafficking.
When you meet her and listen to her speak, you genuinely understand what courage, grace and strength is all about.
The Somaly Mam benefit was held on January 17th in New York City, in an elegant room at the Hudson Terrace, where donated works from celebrated artists such as Peter Yip, Cynthia Cortes and Carla Silva were auctioned for the cause.
Colorful jewelry from The Brave Collection created by survivors as a way to reintegrate them into the work force was sold to raise money and awareness. Above all, everyone in that room was there to listen and to embrace one woman.
Somaly Mam was left by her parents when she was a small child to live with her grandmother. Soon after she was abandoned, for the second time, left to survive on her own.
She slept on hammocks and in trees, searched for food and made her own clothing.
One day she was introduced to a man claiming to be her grandfather. He beat her, molested her, threatened her and sold her for a night to a Chinese merchant to pay off his debts when she was only twelve.
She was brutally raped and told to be silent, which became the theme of her childhood in Cambodia. Somaly was sold to a brothel as a prostitute at age sixteen, where she suffered unspeakable acts of violence and witnessed things that she will never forget. A passage in her memoir,
The Road of Lost Innocence, expresses a deep sense of hopelessness and fear.
“I had been a prostitute in Phnom Penh for four years and I didn’t know how to get out of the whole system. I wanted to, but in my mind I was trapped. I wasn’t worth anything. I was srey kouc, broken and unmendable. I was dirty and I could never hope to become clean again.”
In her early 20‘s, Somaly escaped an unimaginable life and has bravely become one of today’s most powerful human rights activists.
As a modern day abolitionist, she has helped thousands of women and girls understand their rights and has given them a way to leave a brutal and dangerous existence.
The vision of her foundation is a “World where women and children are safe from slavery.” She has been recognized as a CNN hero, one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential people, Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women. She was also the recipient of the World’s Children’s prize.
Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry and the most insidious and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
Slavery exists; over 30 million people are enslaved today.
President Obama continues to address the severity of this global issue and has met with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen about protecting the rights of Cambodians and enforcing laws to stop corruption.
Jacqueline Cohen-Stahl can be found walking her dog along the Hudson River or listening to NPR in her kitchen while cooking. She is an Autobiographical Theater director in New York City with a background in Drama Therapy and Education. Lover of music, travel, her family and all things green. She can be reached @Mommyhumor.
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