Ending Violence Against Women
Frances Power Cobbe
Frances Power Cobbe was an influential figure in the British Unitarian, animal rights, and specifically the women’s rights movements. Born on December 4, 1922, in Dublin, Ireland, Frances was the youngest of five children and the only girl. Because she was female, she was not formally educated. However, she enjoyed reading and studied many subjects on her own.
After her father died,Cobbe began writing articles and pamphlets encouraging social progress, authoring pieces about the situation of poor women and children. She became a suffragist and encouraged other women to get involved, saying that “the work of elevation must be wrought by ourselves or not at all.” In 1868 she wrote an article entitled “Criminals, Idiots, Women, and Minors,” which made a powerful argument in favor of women’s economic independence from their husbands. One of her most influential works was published in 1878, an article called “Truth on Wife Torture,” which later inspired a bill in Parliament that allowed women to legally separate from husbands who had been convicted of assaulting or abusing them.
Somaly Mam is a Cambodian author and human rights activist who focuses on eradicating sex trafficking.
Mam was born in the early 1970s in Cambodia. After Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge terrorized the country and forced around two million Cambodians from cities into the countryside in an attempt to create an agrarian-based Communist society, Mam lost contact with her parents. She lived in a small village until a man picked her up, promising to help her find her father. Instead, Mam became his slave. At a young age, she was sold to a brothel and forced into prostitution. Mam was beaten, tortured, raped, and threatened with death. After watching her best friend be murdered, Mam escaped.
In 1993, a French aid worker helped Mam leave Cambodia. She moved to Paris, but chose to return to Cambodia to help women in sexual slavery. While working as a nurse for Doctors Without Borders, Mam provided condoms, soap, and information to women working in brothels. In 1996, she founded AFESIP, an organization that rescues, houses, and rehabilitates women and children in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam who have been victims of sex trafficking. The organization also works with law enforcement in an effort to raid brothels.
In June 2007, Mam co-founded the Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports anti-trafficking organizations, rescue operations, shelter services, and rehabilitation programs in Southeast Asia. Her memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence, was released in 2009.
Because of her work, Mam and her family are frequently the target of death threats and violence. When asked why she continues her work, Mam replied, “I don’t want to go without leaving a trace.”