Somaly Mam Foundation

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The Somaly Mam Foundation was a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on combating the global sex slave trade through supporting the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the victims and through raising global awareness on the issue. The foundation funded more than 10 organizations in various parts of the world that combat sexual slavery and human trafficking. These included groups that claim to rescue girls from brothels, and house them before reintegrating them into new communities. On October 18, 2014, the Somaly Mam Foundation announced that it has permanently shut down.[1]

Somaly Mam[edit]

Main article: Somaly Mam
Somaly Mam in 2013.

Somaly Mam, co-founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation along with Jared Greenberg and Nicholas Lumpp, was born in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia. Mam has claimed that she was orphaned at a young age, that she does not know who her real parents are, and that she does she know her real name or exact birth date. She has falsely[2][3] claimed to have received no formal schooling. She did, in fact, graduate from high school in Cambodia.[4][5]

Mam has falsely claimed that was sold many times by a man she called "grandfather" as a sex slave and coerced into prostitution.[6] She has claimed that she was forced to work in a brothel with many other young girls that were treated horrifically through torture, manipulation, and scare tactics and that one night she watched a close friend murdered by a pimp. She claimed that she later returned to Cambodia to bring back some of her experience and ideas to her homeland. She co-founded a non-governmental organization "Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire" ("Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances", AFESIP), and became the president of its Cambodian headquarter in Phnom Penh. The organization’s main cause was the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of coerced sex workers. Mam resigned from the Somaly Mam Foundation after Mam's sex trafficking and abuse claims were disproved in a May 2014 Newsweek article.[7][8]

Board of Advisors[edit]

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, and American actress Susan Sarandon were on the advisory board of the Somaly Mam Foundation.[9]


The Somaly Mam Foundation claims to be dedicated in ending sex slavery around the world with a results-oriented, three-step approach to critical program areas: victim services, survivor empowerment, and the eradication of slavery. The common thread woven through all of the Foundation's programs is the collective voice of survivors. The vision is modeled after Mam’s claims of an inspiring life, ensuring that survivors take charge in reclaiming their lives, fight back against their former oppressors, and refuse to turn their backs on those who remain behind.[10]

SMF supports the entire process of healing a survivor from rescue and recovery to rehabilitation and reintegration. The Foundation supports over ten shelters in four countries, providing resources and funding to victim services providers. These organizations provide survivors of human trafficking with food, shelter, and medical and psychological care.[11] These partners include AFESIP Cambodia, AFESIP Laos, Alliance Anti-Trafic in Vietnam, and My Sister's Place in New York.

Once basic needs have been met, SMF supports education and vocational training programs to prepare survivors for reintegration to mainstream society. Survivors are given access to primary and secondary education, and beyond if they wish to do so. These skills are invaluable for survivors to flourish and sustain lives of dignity.[12] Helping survivors of sex slavery become self-sufficient emotionally and financially translates to sustainable employment and alternative long-term solutions to reduce the risk of being re-trafficked or returning to the sex industry.

While survivors have experienced significant trauma, they are often able to thrive with the proper support. The women have gone on to hold steady jobs, open businesses, and get married.[13] In Cambodia, teams visit ex-sex workers to check in and make sure that all is well with them in their lives.[14]

The Somaly Mam Foundation is dedicated to eradicating slavery and the root causes that allow this evil to persist. Rule of law is crucial to the fight against human trafficking. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting and promoting rule of law in regions where the concept is threatened or non-existent. SMF has developed a powerful network of domestic and international partners, such as Lexis Nexis and The Body Shop, to apply pressure to the Cambodian government and justice system to combat corruption and complicity on the part of public officials. SMF works with local groups to demand legislation that effectively addresses the issue and to allocate more resources toward enforcement of these laws.[15][16] The goal is to make engaging in this crime more difficult and costly, as the likelihood of being apprehended and prosecuted will increase. While initial efforts are focused in Cambodia, advocacy campaigns will gradually expand to other countries as well.[17]

Awareness and advocacy are crucial across the globe as well. By increasing knowledge of trafficking, by understanding its root causes, and by creating an environment where the world says "no more," the end of trafficking can come about in the foreseeable future.

Voices for Change[edit]

Sina Vann, a former sex worker, co-directs SMF's Voices for Change (VFC) program. and modeled after Mam’s life example, VFC is designed to give survivors an opportunity to help themselves by helping others, to have their voices heard in the courts of law and public perception, and to have influence and impact on effectuating change. Those who have undergone rescue, recovery, education, and reintegration are survivors who can choose to join the Voices for Change initiative and help in the survivor services program area by speaking to new victims brought to the centers, completing intake forms, teaching classes, and sharing life skills training.[18]

Program participants join legal training seminars and give public speaking talks to magistrates, judges, and other members of the legal community brought together to better understand sex slavery. Participating survivors host public service announcements in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. They also accompany Mam to certain fundraising and awareness events to share their experiences.[19]

PROJECT FUTURES global[edit]

PROJECT FUTURES global is the volunteer and activist platform of the Somaly Mam Foundation. This program empowers volunteers to take action and join the fight against slavery by using their skills and interests, their communities, and their social networks to speak out, increase awareness, and raise funds for the Somaly Mam Foundation.[20][dead link]


In 2013, the financial background of the Somaly Mam Foundation came under scrutiny by The Cambodia Daily. In an article titled The Rise of the Somaly Mam Foundation (October 13, 2013) journalist Simon Marks reported on the remarkable earnings of the organisations leadership and top employees. Salaries and compensations show a steep upwards curve, according to annual reports. For example, Somaly Mam herself saw her financial compensation rise from $0 in 2008 to $85,000 in 2009, to $96,000 in 2010, and $125,642 in 2011. Bill Livermore, a former CEO who later left to form his own anti-trafficking organisation, was paid $72,375 in 2009, $166,655 in 2010 and $149,580 in 2011.[21]

An annual gala dinner in New York's Gotham Hall ballroom reguires a donation of $100,000 for a seating of 20 guests at two "gala chair" tables.[22]

According to the 2011 annual report for AFESIP funds went to "improvements in the infrastructure and operations of rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration services" towards 358 victims inside three centers in Cambodia (2010), which 81 of them were younger than 16.


  1. ^ "Somaly Mam Foundation Ceases Operation". The Cambodia Daily. October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ Marks, Simon (21 May 2014). "Somaly Mam: The Holy Saint (and Sinner) of Sex Trafficking". Newsweek. Retrieved 29 May 2014. Sam Nareth, a childhood friend of Mam’s, says Mam first attended school in the village in 1981 and remained there until she got her high school diploma. “She finished secondary school in 1987, and Somaly and I went to sit the teachers exam in Kompong Cham together.” Thou Soy, who was the director of Khchao High School in Thloc Chhroy, distinctly remembers Mam attending classes between 1981 and 1987, as does the current commune chief, Thorng Ruon, and his two predecessors. 
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ [6]
  9. ^ [7]
  10. ^ "Programs: Overview". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Programs: Rescue and Recovery". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "Programs: Education". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "From Slavery to Empowerment: The Wedding of a Survivor with Shay Mitchell and Somaly Mam". Somaly Mam Foundation. 
  14. ^ "AFESIP CAMBODIA Reintegration". AFESIP Cambodia. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Combatting Human Traffickin". Lexis Nexis. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  16. ^ "Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People". The Body Shop. 
  17. ^ "Programs: Advocacy". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Programs: Voices for Change". Somaly Mam Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "Fight Slavery with Shay Mitchell and Voices for Change". Somaly Mam Foundation. 
  20. ^ "About PROJECT FUTURES global". Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  21. ^ [8]
  22. ^ [9]

External links[edit]