Born to a tribal minority family, the Phnong, in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, Somaly Mam began life in extreme poverty.
As member of a severely marginalized ethnic group, and living in unimaginable despair, her family often resorted to desperate means to survive.·
After living on her own as a young girl, scrambling for food and shelter, a man calling himself her grandfather took her to a city, where he abused her and at first used her as a domestic slave before selling her to a brothel. Somaly became a srey kouc, a “broken woman” who could never be fixed.
After experiencing years of abuse, she gained her freedom after the death of her "grandfather." Because she lacked job skills, education, and any support network, she stayed in the commercial sex industry until she eventually married a Frenchman,· who was working on foreign aid projects in Cambodia.
They moved to France for a few years, where Mam gained work experience and learned French.
Upon her return to Cambodia, she started working on behalf of other girls and young women who were forced into commercial sex work, either by their parents who sold them to pay a debt or because they were kidnapped from their families for use as sex slaves.
At first she mainly provided condoms and other services to the girls and women.
Later, she started working to rescue them from the situations, and she opened a shelter. Eventually, Mam opened several shelters, ranging from emergency shelters to more permanent educational facilities for survivors.
Many young women in South East Asia (and in many other parts of the world) are forced into sexual prostitution and slavery.
This is the story of one of these girls -- and what one organization is doing to help make a difference.
Click on the picture
In 1996, Somaly established a Cambodian non-governmental organization called AFESIP (Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire) to help the victims and in 2007, The Somali Mann Foundation was founded.
The Somaly Mam Foundation supports programs that rescue victims and provide survivors with food, shelter, medical and psychological care.
These programs have provided comprehensive services to thousands of sex trafficking victims across Southeast Asia since their inception.
'The first step in saving a life begins with a rescue mission conducted by our partners' legal and investigations departments.
The investigations team visits sex establishments undercover, and gathers information about the status and nature of the young women and girls present.
Once victims have been identified, the team prepares an investigative report and submits the report to legal workers who engage the police and appropriate legal agencies, setting the legal process in motion.'
Cambodia is still a haven for western sex-tourists who fuel the trafficking industry.
"The most used transportation in the cities of Cambodia is the motor bikes apart from the regular taxi. The moto boys will help you a lot in finding a girl also.
Take this motto boy to a nearby brothel. After reaching there just kick on the ass of these motto boys. If you don’t do so then they will just hike the price.
There are so many brothel are found in the capital city streets of Cambodia. A sex travel in Cambodia without moving to the brothels is not completed. As you reach at a brothel a no of pimps will rush to your car or motor cycle representing their houses.
All will try to sell a girl from their houses. They will show you girls. If you are not satisfied then they will provide you with more.
So go on choosing till you get the prettiest one. The general price differs from $5-10 and a tip to the girl. Most of the girls are robbed and ****** by the pimps so it’s better to tip the girls.
The advantage with Khmer girls is that they are quite cooperative while on to sex.
And the advantage of moving to a brothel than to a club is that you will find a great no here to choose from."
In 2008 Cambodia brought in a new law against sex-trafficking.
The 'Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation' .
But this has not meant an end to the ordeal for girls like Somaly. Although authorities conduct brothel raids and street sweeps, the exploitation continues...
"The law allows police of all levels to arrest and punish sex workers," said Naly Pilorge, director of local human rights group Licadho.
"The sex workers are arrested and taken to police stations and rehabilitation centres...
and then they are abused."