Somaly Mam Foundation in Cambodia
Unfortunately, human trafficking is still the second largest and fastest growing organized crime in the world. In an effort to support the Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) and their commitment to end sex slavery and empower survivors in Southeast Asia OmLuxe Retreats Journeyed to Cambodia to meet survivors and raised over $54,000 USD for clothing, food and Shelter for Children and Teen Survivors of Sex Trafficking.
Did you know that in 2016 (the most current statistics available from International Labor Organization’s site) there were an estimated 40.3 million people experiencing modern slavery around the world? Of this, 15.4 million are forced into marriage and 4.8 million forced into sexual exploitation, and 99% are girls and women. Forced marriage continues to be troublesome in Asia and the Pacific region, remaining at the 2nd highest rate under Africa, accounting for 66% of human trafficking in the region.
These numbers continue regarding the human trafficking crisis necessitates a global response. SMF works to end these horrific conditions, including providing direct wrap-around services for survivors. SMF is, in fact, named after Somaly Mam, a survivor who is actively shares her story in many venues and is driven to empower other survivors to be a new generation of change-makers.
Cambodia has had particular struggles historically and culturally which have made sex trafficking endemic to Cambodia. This started when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and was ruled by Pol Pot, a Marxist dictator. In Pot’s attempt to create a Cambodian “master race” through social engineering, more than 100,000 people were killed in genocide. The regime continued to overrule the general public through 1999, further corrupting society and killing an additional 1.9 million citizens. Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per-capita income of less than $300 USD annually.
The future truly lies in in the current generations, particularly those under the age of 30. Along with non-profits like SMF, this younger generation is starting to see that the future can be different. The passed-down trauma has caused generational acceptance of forced labor, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. Through conferences, facilitating public dialogue, student coalitions, and anti-trafficking groups, SMF is changing the way human trafficking is viewed by including survivors to share their stories. This serves several purposes including humanizing victims in the public eye and provides survivors a healthy outlet while gaining public speaking skills and experience. Additionally, an advocacy team leads community workshops, seminars, works with local authorities, grassroots campaigns, and a local radio station.
Over the past decade, SMF has continued to rescue numbers of women and children survivors. Survivors of forced labor, abuse, and exploitation are led on a journey back to health with hope and economic independence. An international network of support also trains survivors as advocates, activists, and leaders for change. Subtle shifts in cultural norms are becoming more apparent, as more and more survivors add to an entrepreneurial network who have successful business, social enterprises, and spur conversations about human trafficking in mass media, in government, and in the rule of law.
Through continued efforts, SMF believes that real change will continue, and future generations will have better lives. To find out more about the Somaly Mam Foundation and their current efforts, or to donate to their cause, please visit somaly.org.