Hope Drives Human Trafficking Survivor

The lives of three young women were highlighted when President Obama spoke to the audience at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Sheila White, from The Bronx, had been sold into sexual servitude and abuse. Marie Godet Niyonyota, who is Congolese, was kidnapped by rebel fighters and held prisoner for years. Ima Matul had come to America from Indonesia hoping for work. “But when she arrived, it turned out to be a nightmare. Cooking, cleaning—18-hour days, seven days a week,” Obama said. “One beating was so bad it sent her to the emergency room.”

A lot has changed in the last decade since Matul transitioned from a human trafficking survivor who didn’t speak English to a jet-setting activist taking meetings in Washington, D.C.

In 1997, a teenaged Matul was lured to the United States under promises of a nanny job for an Indonesian woman living near L.A., and $150 month. She suffered physical violence, mental abuse, and slave-like labor conditions without pay. One incident brought her to the emergency room when her employer’s husband said he “could see her brain” after she was badly beaten. Finally, after three years, she decided to ask the nanny next door to help her escape.

Matul, a 32-year-old mother of three, has been working tirelessly to further the cause of human trafficking survivors and organizations. She recently helped with a bill that outlines protections and rights for domestic workers.

Obama signed an executive order requiring business cooperation with the issue, and called for congress to renew the Trafficking Victims Protection Act—legislation to help identify and prosecute human trafficking situations, which expired last year.“Our message today, to them, is—to the millions around the world—we see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity. And we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.”

Learn more at Nina Strochlic’s The Daily Beast article: Hope Drives Human Trafficking Survivor Lauded By Obama at CGI.


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