|Photo via somaly.org
The Somaly Mam Foundation has had a huge impact on my life and likewise so has Somaly Mam herself. She is an amazingly courageous woman rescuing girls from brothels and giving them a second chance at life. Recently Half the Sky and Somaly Mam answered your questions via twitter. Below is the questions and answers via the Project Futures global blog- where I am the volunteer writer.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
Somaly: The most rewarding is my kids, my girls. Especially the ones in Kampong Cham. They’re so clever!
Q: How can I as a woman in Ireland help? It doesn’t seem enough to just spread the word by twitter or FB.
Somaly: You can do so much! Volunteer with Project Futures global and have events to get your community involved to end slavery.
Somaly: And if you can, you can support with donations. We need many resources to help survivors succeed.
Q: How to best engage men in the fight against trafficking?
Somaly: You have to love. After compassion. And you need trust. If you are not able, you can not fight with us. We need people like my team!
Somaly: Men need to hear real stories. Make it reality so they understand it. It’s a human rights issue for everyone together.
Somaly: Also know we forgive and we are open to men’s help. It is about respect.
Q: In your work, how do you involve a survivor of sex trafficking’s community in the healing process.
Somaly: We use a grassroots system to empower our survivors. We have a network of survivors and victims and love.
Somaly: We also have Voices for Change leaders who are survivors and know what it’s like to be a victim. They build a community of survivors.
Q: Do you feel the approach to the end of sex trafficking needs to be economical or legal?
Q: What do the sex trafficked girls most want the world to know about them?
Somaly: They want people to know about their life. They want you to know their stories.
Q: How can college students and youth best support this cause? In what ways do you think this group can help?
Somaly: Get friends involved, get the community to take action. Everyone cannot do everything but each of you can do 1 thing.
Q: What’s the current situation in Cambodia as far as trafficking? Growing/declining? Thanks!
Somaly: We cannot give a statistic. It is underground industry and very hard to track.
Q: What role does microfinance play in the fight against slavery?
Somaly: We give start-up kits to women who are ready to start a new business, like salon or sewing, to help them find success.
Somaly: We do not ask them to repay this loan because we do not want them to start their new life in debt.
Q: You help and inspire so many people. What inspires you to keep fighting?
Somaly: My girls! One of my big heroes has HIV/AIDS. She got sold to the brothels at 4 years old. They told her she’d die. Now she is 10, everyday she goes to school. She’s very strong, she inspires me so much.
Q: Has status of human trafficking improved since you were a young girl? What are challenges today?
Somaly: Before the victims were older. Now it is younger. The big challenge is saving a 3 year old girl.
Somaly: You don’t know how to talk to them and they don’t know how to talk to you. It’s a big challenge, very sad.
Q: Thoughts on identifying influencers and other key components to activating audience/advocates?
Somaly: We work with government, private sector companies and legal groups to promote rule of law.
Somaly: We need to start critical conversations and demand protection for victims and changes in law and cultures.
Q: How do we sell [the idea of ] ending slavery like a movie… make it cool? How do we get the same numbers in ending slavery?
Somaly: YOU TELL US! Help us figure out to to make ending slavery “cool.”
HALF THE SKY: We think Half the Sky is pretty cool too. Check out our movement trailer.
Q: What countries have legal structures. Environments that help empower victims and criminalize johns?
Q: How can non-profits work together to end this epidemic? How can we help you and your work?
Q: What made you have the bravery to have attitude to change people’s lives in some way?
Somaly: Everyone teaches me, you and the girls. I feel stronger seeing how little they are and yet how strong and clever.
Somaly: We cannot forget it but we can learn to forgive.
Q: What sorts of things have your girls gone on to do when they leave your program?
Somaly: Sokhum is in law school! We are so proud. One girl wants to replace me, so I have hope for the future.
Q: What’s the next short-term and long-term goal for Somaly?
Somaly: Short term: to empower women and survivors. Women and girls hold of half the sky.
Somaly: For the world to heal, you must elevate women and let them take their power.
Somaly: We will continue to rescue and recover the victims
Q: What does the everyday person like me need to channel our voice towards ending slavery?
Somaly: Start conversations, share survivor stores, be a voice for those who cannot be heard.
Somaly: Save one first. And if that one is doing great, then you can move on become stronger by working together. Put anger aside- it is not a solution. Patience and love is a solution. With compassion and action together we can end slavery.
Somaly: Thank you everyone. All of you, each one makes me stand up today. I cannot do it alone without you. I am strong but I need all of you.
LIFE IS LOVE!