Somaly Mam

Cambodian human rights advocate and author working to end sex trafficking

Asia-Pacific and South Asia

Somaly Mam is a Cambodian human rights activist and author who has focused her work on eradicating sex trafficking and empowering victims of the practice. In 1996, Mam established a Cambodian NGO to rehabilitate child victims of the sex industry. Mam began her advocacy efforts by distributing aid to enslaved girls in brothels in Cambodia. In 1996, she founded AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire, or Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances), a Cambodian NGO that works with police to shut down illegal brothels and also houses and rehabilitates trafficking victims. The organization states that it has helped thousands of women and children—some as young as five years old—escape sexual slavery in Southeast Asia. In 2007, Mam expanded her efforts to combat sex trafficking by co-founding the Somaly Mam Foundation to support anti-trafficking groups and assist women and children who were forced into sexual slavery. In addition to its extensive work in Southeast Asia, the foundation expanded its focus in recent years to include advocacy and awareness campaigns throughout the U.S. Mam received Glamour’s 2006 Woman of the Year Award and was named one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2009.