When Srey Rath was 15 years old, she went to work in Thailand as a dishwasher to help support her family who was suffering from financial need. Srey went with her new employers but was surprised when she was not taken to work as a dishwasher but was actually given to gangsters and sent to Malaysia. She arrived at a brothel and her boss told her she must repay the debt she owed to him. She tried to fight back but was beaten each time she did. All of the girls at the brothel were beaten and tortured into compliance and forced to smile. They were forced to “work” every day of the week for at least 15 hours per day. The girls were never allowed to leave the brothel and never saw any of the money.
Srey Rath was lucky. She was a strong young girl who was able to escape. One night, she and a few other girls broke open a window and climbed across a board only 5-inches wide to the balcony of the nearest apartment building. Many girls were too afraid to follow in fear that they would fall and die. Srey was willing to take that chance. She escaped and was able to find a social worker who gave her the information for a group that supports girls who fall victim to sex-trafficking. They gave her $400 of money that had been donated to their organization so that she could by a cart and become a street peddler. Srey Rath is an intelligent young woman and was soon able to start saving money and expand her business. Today she owns not just a cart but a stall, and the stall next to it. And the stall next to that. Today she is married and has a young son. She is currently saving money to provide her son the education she was never able to receive.
Story summarized by Kelly Tankard from Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kriston and Sheryl WuDunn, Vintage Books, © 2009.