Feature: Anti Sex Trafficking Agency AFESIP in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 1st, 2007

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Keywords: AFESIP, human trafficking, somaly mam

Acting for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP) is a Cambodian NGO based in Phnom Penh and founded by trafficking victim and ex-prostitute Somaly Mam. Providing “A-Z” services, (AFESIP) conducts outreach, provides follow up care to victims including housing, retraining, education, psychological services, and repatriation. Most agencies only tackle one or two of these services.

Founder Somaly Mam expresses frustration with the NGO situation in Cambodia. “I’m so tired, so tired,” she says that there are so many NGO’s working on similar issues but not in a concerted fashion. In spite of her uneducated and poverty stricken past, her political efforts are thrusting her into the world of diplomacy where she hopes to secure the attentions of a larger agency, such as the United Nations, which can unify the anti-trafficking work of the diverse NGO’s working in the region.

In Phnom Penh, AFESIP provides a health clinic and outreach services for sex workers, teaching them about HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, basic health, and hands out free condoms.

AFESIP has three facilities in Cambodia and is expanding throughout the Mekong region. In its facilities AFESIP provides housing, basic education, professional training, and counseling for young girls and women; some have traumatic pasts involving beatings, cages, and forced sex work, others are currently voluntary sex workers who would like to change their opportunities in life. Residents are there of their own volition however they can not prostitute or use drugs while in residency.

AFESIP trains women to do hair, makeup, and massage as well as garment design and production; both can be fairly lucrative careers for an individual. After graduating, AFESIP will help women find jobs or start their own small businesses. Taking into account the individual’s traumatic past, AFESIP provides follow up care, and even retraining, for years afterwards.

AFESIP Fair Fashion is a branch of the agency using fair trade ethics to produce garments and accessories for export. While much smaller than the immense warehouse-sized garment factories on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, AFESIP hopes this export business can become a profitable and viable employer for women who have escaped traumatic pasts.

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