In June 2010, ICOSA featured a story on Cambodian-born human rights activist Somaly Mam. Born to a tribal minority in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, Mam grew up as an orphan, living in extreme poverty, and as a young girl she was sold into sexual slavery by a man who posed as her grandfather. Forced to work in a brothel along with other children, Mam was brutally tortured and raped on a daily basis. One night, she was made to watch as her best friend was viciously murdered. Fearing she would meet that same fate, Mam heroically escaped her captors and set about to build a new life for herself. She vowed never to forget those left behind and has since dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors.
In 1996, Somaly established a Cambodian nongovernmental organization called AFESIP (Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire), and in 2007 launched the Somaly Mam Foundation. Her shelters provide an education and job skills to girls as young as four years old, all the while applying public and international pressure to push police to crack down on the worst brothels and to undermine the sex-trafficking business model. Mam has been instrumental in shedding much-needed light on the plight of thousands of vulnerable young women and girls. She says, "If you want to buy a virgin, it's not easy now.”
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide includes a four-hour television series for PBS and international broadcast, shot in 10 countries: Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and the United States. Traveling with intrepid reporter Nicholas Kristof and A-list celebrity advocates, the series introduces women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable—and fighting bravely to change them.
The series, along with its complimentary tools, raises awareness to the plight of women worldwide and provides suggestions at concrete steps to tackle the problems. The series premiered in the United States Oct. 1 and 2, 2012. Look to your cable provider to find viewing times or visit online, at http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/half-the-sky/.