It was a standard micro financing fellowship with her NYU graduate program that brought Diana Mao to Cambodia. She and her male colleague were speaking to a single father with seven children, when at the end of their meeting, the father offered his youngest daughter to her colleague. This was the profound moment that Diana witnessed human trafficking firsthand. This father did not want to sell his child maliciously, and Diana recognized the desperation and lack of hope in his eyes. With indignant passion, Diana made it her personal mission to do something about this global issue.
In 2008, Diana and her friend, Alissa Moore-Williams, returned to Cambodia to explore why families thought selling their children was even an option. Their research found poverty to be the main factor. Many great charities and nongovernmental agencies were in place to rescue and rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking. However, too often the survivors would return to trafficking, not out of choice, but because they did not have a choice to provide for themselves or for their families.
Without any viable skill sets, many migrated to other countries in hopes of finding work. Others were ostracized due to religion or ethnicity. Many also dealt with domestic abuse or were forced to be child brides. Research also showed that people were four times more likely to be trafficked by a family member rather than a complete stranger.
So, with heavy hearts and clear eyed vision, Diana (President) and Alissa (COO), along with their friend, Supei Liu (VP), founded Nomi Network in 2009. They decided to name their organization after an inspirational 8-year-old girl named Nomi.
Nomi is a survivor of sex trafficking. She suffers from mental illness proliferated by her experiences, but we saw in her a reliance and hope that pushes the mission forward. The goal is to eradicate human trafficking in our lifetime, and the plan is to do that...one bag at a time.
Through training programs, we provide educational and economic opportunities to women who are at-risk and survivors of human trafficking in India and Cambodia. All our products are handmade by the women in our programs, and the proceeds are reinvested back into their training and development.
Our Slogan Tote features the iconic statement: “Buy Her Bag Not Her Body”. Not only do we fight human trafficking by providing financial independance to those preyed on by traffickers, but we also push consumers to shop ethically and responsibly. By purchasing a product, you help survivors say, #KnowMe, #KnowMyStory, #KnowMySuccess.
By sourcing locally/regionally, we create sustainable supply chains that support the communities we work in and our women live in. All our materials are organic, recycled, or repurposed. From sourcing to manufacturing, everything is fair trade regulated. Our success is directly tied to the success of our women.
In 2016, Nomi Network worked with over 700 women and creating over 2,000 jobs by training for industrial machinery operation, product manufacturing, design implementation, and become learning how to be financially independent.
In Bihar, India, over 70 women were provided legal training to combat domestic violence, trafficking, and dowry issues. 12 women even formed a micro financing fund that support their own businesses and the larger communities.
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nomi Network established an International Fashion Incubator, the first of its kind in this region. Classes and workshops teach trend forecasting, merchandising, inventory management, catalogue creation, and other retail planning techniques.
Beyond scholarships for schooling, micro-financing loans, and safe transport in the red-light districts that we work in, our hope is that we empower every survivor to know their story does not end with abuse or returning to it. A job secures them financially and short-term, but knowing their own value and the value of their work turns these women into matriarchs and entrepreneurs.
As consumers, we have so much power. It starts with your closet, your spending habits, and your ability to educate yourself and others. Support companies that work sustainably within the states and globally. Challenge big name brands to change their sourcing and manufacturing chains. One person cannot stop a $150 billion industry and rescue the estimated 46 million slaves, but change is a progressive movement that involves many individuals. The fashion revolution can be infectious, but it is only effective if we make it important to us.
Find other sustainable and transparent brands we love on Diana’s Blog.
Shop our products with an exclusive 25% off coupon code (valid until 03/31/17): “wrk02bttr17”
Learn more about Nomi Network at www.nominetwork.org