Monday, September 28, 2009

Launch this Thursday for Nomi Network's "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body" campaign

On Thursday, October 1st, the Nomi Network is hosting a launch party to officially debut their "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body" totes. The totes are made are made by survivors who earn a livable wage for their work. The bags, which are made from sustainable materials, also raise awareness about the issue of sex trafficking, and the money from purchases helps fund education, training, and counseling for sex trafficking survivors in Cambodia.

The Nomi Network started approximately two years ago as an effort to provide long-term, sustainable employment for survivors of sex trafficking in
Cambodia. According to their website, the Network's name comes from a young child who is a sex trafficking survivor. Nomi (the name has been altered to protect her identity) "is an eight year old Cambodian girl who delights in running, laughing, and playing with her friends. . . Not that long ago, Nomi was held against her will in a brothel and forced to have sex with men for money. Now, she is finding hope and a renewed life in a Christ-centered rehabilitation home for formerly sex-trafficked children in Cambodia, where she is discovering her own strength and resilience. Nomi's life, however, has been permanently altered by her past sexual exploitation; those traumatic experiences as a sex slave have left her permanently mentally disabled."

Alissa Moore and Diana Mao began the Nomi Network with the aim of eradicating such sexual slavery by using fashion and the marketplace to provide economic options for sex trafficking survivors and people at risk of sex trafficking. Rather than
inadvertently supporting slavery with what we buy, Moore and Mao wanted to leverage our purchases to address this human rights abuse.

Mao first visited Cambodia as a student at the
Wagner School of Public Service to research Microfinance. After seeing the effects of sex trafficking firsthand, she came back to the United States impassioned about finding a way to make a difference. Mao teamed up with Moore. Together, they had the idea of finding a way to bring the goods women produced in Cambodia to US buyers.

They visited Cambodia together and met with local NGOs who were already working with sex trafficking survivors, providing them with counseling, education, and job training. Mao and Moore learned that one of the main obstacles facing these organizations in their efforts to help the women find economic stability and living-wage work is the need for demand for the products women produce. The Nomi Network aims to address this need for demand by designing products that can be produced in Cambodia that will appeal to a broad market in the US, rather than just to the segment of the market that will buy products for a cause.

Moore sums up the aims of the Nomi Network as working to address the needs and gaps between what other anti-trafficking organizations can provide. Currently, the Network is addressing gaps in the design aspect of products and in ensuring that products the women produced will have find and reach a Western market. The Network is also working to educate retailers about ways stores can easily and without cost supply socially-responsible products, and they are creating a map of New York stores that sell fair-trade or slavery-free products.

Looking to the future, the Nomi Network wants to increase capacity of their work. They also want the women they work with to gain increased educational and economic opportunities so that they can enter other careers if they so choose or can manage their own businesses rather than be dependent on the Network.

In addition to attending the launch party or ordering a bag via their website, Moore and Mao encourage people to spread the word about their organization and the products they sell. People who want to get involved on a deeper level who have business or technical skills can also contact the Network at They are also looking for people involved in the fashion industry, particularly buyers.

The launch party will be held on Thursday, October 1st, at 7pm at
White Saffron Boutique in New York City, located at 232 Mulberry Street, New York, NY, 10012. Esosa Edosomwan, award winning actress, writer and “directress," will be the keynote speaker.


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