It takes a village. It starts with one.
The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of sex slavery and the empowerment of its survivors, led by the vision and life’s work of Cambodian survivor Somaly Mam. Founded in 2007, our multilateral approach helps victims to escape their plight, empowers survivors with economic independence and as advocates and activists in next-generation change, and engages governments, corporations, and individuals in critical conversations, strategic partnerships, and actions toward real change.
We work closely with partners in Southeast Asia, where the trafficking of women and children is widespread and where, for nearly two decades, Somaly and her team have rescued women and children from exploitation and abuse and assisted them on a journey to health, hope, and economic independence. Our Voices For Change program trains survivors as advocates, activists, and leaders of next-generation change.
Now in its third year, the Voices For Change program has already demonstrated success in many ways: in the personal and professional development of each leader, in improvements in the rescue and recovery process as a result of their help, and in leaders lending a critical voice to grassroots media campaigns and police trainings. The program demonstrates what is possible when you invest in a woman and believe in her potential.
The deeper impact of this work can be seen in subtle shifts in cultural norms, in a proud network of entrepreneurial female survivors starting businesses and social enterprises, in open conversations on human trafficking in mass media, in strategic government and police partnerships, and in a growing trust in the rule of law, critical to combating corruption and protecting the victims.
But rebuilding lives and tackling the root causes of the problem requires patience, understanding, and resources. Somaly's approach has always been one by one, drop by drop, life by life, and she is living proof that change can start with just one.
Preliminary Highlights from 2012:
• Over 600,000 condoms were distributed for free of charge for women and girls in prostitution and their clients by social workers and peer-educators, as part of AFESIP's HIV/AIDS prevention program.
• Social outreach and peer educators from partner organization AFESIP visited 950 entertainment areas (brothels, karaoke bars, and clubs) throughout Phnom Penh and the provinces.
• Over 1,200 women and girls visited the free medical clinic for consultations, counseling, and treatment. 18 women and girls who visited the free medical clinic decided to exit their current situation and enroll in an AFESIP center for recovery and vocational skills training.
• 350 women and girls received holistic care in our three partner shelters in Cambodia. 100% of shelter residents received basic education.
• 34 residents were reintegrated as entrepreneurs with start-up microgrants, job placement assistance, or university tuition support. The reintegration team also followed up with 135 survivors who left the centers in 2011 or 2010, visiting about every three months to check on their progress with new jobs or small businesses.
• 21 residents completed basic vocational skills training skill and have begun internships for additional practice in the private sector. This pre-reintegration process can help the women and girls to build more confidence in their learned skills and understanding of small business operations, making them more ready for reintegration.
• 13 court cases of trafficking and abuse have ended in conviction.
Outreach and Advocacy
• Social workers made nearly 69,000 points of contact delivering educational messages on personal hygiene, STD/STI and HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, drug abuses, basic human rights and domestic violence.
• They also educated nearly 1,000 buyers/clients of prostitution on the responsibility they carry.
• The medical clinic gave 1,844 free consultations, treatments, and counseling sessions, plus administered 668 STD tests to victims of exploitation and abuse in the sex trade. Each woman was diagnosed and advised on treatment and next steps.
• More than 150 meetings were conducted with relevant government ministries and with other NGO/INGOs. Two groundbreaking agreements were reached in HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and a myriad of other developments in service provisions, resource allocation, referrals, and policy goals came as a result.
• On December 10, SMF sponsored the third annual Anti-Trafficking Day, led by AFESIP Cambodia and hosting actor and supporter Susan Sarandon. Over 4,000 community members, government officials, media — and even current victims — participated in critical dialogues on the issue of human trafficking and how to combat it. Somaly was acknowledged for her work and given an award by the government.
• 806,546 condoms were distributed to women exploited by the sex industry and to clients and buyers of sex. WIthout it, these women have to buy supplies at their own expense--for each and every client they are forced to take.
• 9,821 soaps were distributed as well, to aid in disease prevention and in general hygiene.
• 18 laptops and 18 desktop computers were installed at the Kampong Cham center, the shelter for the youngest victims and at-risk. Residents learn basic computer skills in preparation for working in administrative office jobs, the tourism and hospitality industry, and in NGOs. These computers are also available for use by community children, which helps to build community and erase stigma. 7 desktop computers installed at Tom Dy center in Phnom Penh; 10 computers were installed at Siem Reap.
• Roughly 500 square meters of land purchased for basic agricultural training in Siem Reap center. This fits in with the Southeast Asia team’s long-term commitment to building a self-sustainable food systems and general infrastructure.
Recovery & Training
• 358 residents received comprehensive, holistic care at the three recovery and vocational skills centers in Cambodia.
• All residents participated in an annual beach trip to Kampong Som province, as well as recreational activities on Khmer New Year, International Women’s Day, Pchum Ben, and International Children’s Rights Day.
• 248 women and girls received skills training in sewing, weaving and salon skills and management. 48 received formal government certification in their vocational training area upon completion. This prepares them for a life of economic and emotional independence, hope and dignity.
• Residents of all three Cambodian centers received English and computer training. Residents at Tom Dy and Siem Reap centers received basic literacy and math classes; residents in Kampong Cham center attend nearby state schools.
• Children living near the Kampong Cham center have access to the center’s library, which also encourages understanding, builds community, and helps to erase the stigma of being a victim of trafficking.
• Residents receive supplementary training on small business management, life skills and home gardening. This helps to ensure the success of their next step after leaving the center.
• 90 residents participated in a study tour, to visit different private sector businesses before reintegration and choose their desired profession.
• Scholarships allowed staff trainers, all former survivors, to build capacity and improve the quality of services they can offer to current residents.
• 120 women left the centers to be reintegrated into the community in 2011. 66 of these women received start-up kits, valued at $700. These kits include supplies, materials, and start-up capital needed to establish a small salon or sewing shop.
• 227 reintegrated women received follow-up visits by medical professionals, trainers, legal experts, and psychologists.
• In 2011, the SMF directed over $924,000 to victim service providers in Southeast Asia and the US.
• In 2010, the SMF directed over $837,000 to victim service providers in Southeast Asia, the US, and Haiti.
photo by Juan Yepes