A riveting and beautiful memoir of tragedy and hope–by a woman named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world
Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. She suffered unspeakable acts of brutality and witnessed horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life–until, in her early twenties, she managed to escape. Unable to forget the girls she left behind, Mam became a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking, rescuing sex workers–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.
Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence is a memoir that will leave you awestruck by the courage and strength of this extraordinary woman and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.
Somaly Mam is the cofounder of AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) in Europe and The Somaly Mam Foundation in the United States, whose goal is to save and socially reintegrate victims of sexual slavery in Southeast Asia. She was named Glamour’s Woman of the Year in 2006. She lives in Cambodia and France.
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Humanitarian Somaly Mam on combating human trafficking
Somaly Mam is a driven, dynamic, inspiring and indefatigable leader. Those are some of the qualities that make her one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people and a CNN Hero.
Somaly Mam is also an unlikely hero. She is a victim of human trafficking and was sold into a brothel in Cambodia at the age of 12.
Activist Somaly Mam quits foundation amid claims she faked personal story
Anti-trafficking Somaly Mam Foundation conducted investigation after Newsweek alleged she had fabricated key facts
Cambodian anti-sex trafficking activist Somaly Mam has resigned from her namesake foundation after a report questioned the credibility of her personal story of abuse.
The Somaly Mam Foundation accepted her resignation, “effective immediately”, on Wednesday.
“While we are extremely saddened by this news, we remain grateful to Somaly’s work over the past two decades, and for helping to build a foundation that has served thousands of women and girls, and [which] has raised critical awareness of the nearly 21 million individuals who are currently enslaved today,” executive director Gina Reiss-Wilchins said in a statement posted on the foundation’s website.
Mam resigned following the publication of a Newsweek cover story HERE on 20 May that alleged that key parts of her story had been fabricated. The article also accused Mam of coaching some of the girls the foundation used as examples to tell horrifying – and, allegedly, not always true – stories of their experience as sex slaves, to draw attention to her global anti-sex trafficking mission.
Newsweek interviewed “childhood acquaintances, teachers and local officials” in the village where Mam grew up, who contradicted her story. The story also points to instances when Mam confused details of her own story, including how many years she spent as a sex slave.
Mam wrote in her memoir The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine, that she was sold into sexual slavery as a teenager by a man she called grandfather. She eventually escaped and started Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Précaire (Afesip), an organization dedicated to helping rescue young girls from forced prostitution.
After publishing her book, Mam launched the Somaly Mam Foundation. Her crusade against sex trafficking, and her charismatic personality, won her an audience of international donors who helped raise millions for the foundation, among them some star supporters, including Susan Sarandon, Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan and Hillary Clinton.
Mam has spoken at the White House and the United Nations. In 2009, she was chosen as one of Time’s most influential people, and in 2011, the Guardian selected her as one of its top 100 women.
The foundation said in its statement that a law firm was hired to conduct an independent, two-month investigation into Mam’s backstory, as well as the stories girls associated with her organization had told the public. The foundation retained the investigation’s findings, but said in the statement that one of the young girls, Long Pross, who spoke out as a former child sex slave, will no longer be affiliated with the foundation.
Pross had told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Oprah Winfrey that she was kidnapped and sold into slavery where she was beaten and had her eye gouged out. She said Mam rescued her and brought her to one of the organization’s centers. The Newsweek article reported, however, that Pross came the center to participate in a vocational training program, and she had undergone surgery on her eye as the result of a nonmalignant tumor.
Reiss-Wilchins said: “Despite our heartfelt disappointment, the work of the Foundation and our grant partners must and will carry on. We have touched the lives of over 100,000 women and girls. We have treated nearly 6,000 individuals at a free medical clinic in Phnom Penh’s red light district and engaged nearly 6,400 students in anti-trafficking activism.”
Source : News World news Lauren Gambino in New York, theguardian.com
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