January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and a small nonprofit in Midtown dispatches workers halfway around the world to end modern-day slavery, one handbag at a time. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
The Nomi Network is made up of women who work in a this tiny shared office in Midtown to make a big impact half a world away. They are stamping out human trafficking, one handbag at a time.
Supei Liu, the co-founder of Nomi Network, quit her lucrative job in the fashion industry a few years ago to help oppressed women regain their independence.
She travels to countries like India and teaches women how to sew and make stylish bags that bear the message, "Buy Her Bags, Not Her Body."
"This is one of the bags made by the women. This is signed by one of the women," Liu says.
Nomi Network is not just about fashion accessories, but also strives to end illiteracy among women. Many of the women helped by the organization have been rescued from a vicious cycle of sex slavery, and for the first time, many of those women can keep the money they earn.
"We also teach them how to save because 75 percent of them do not have savings," Liu says.
Diana Mao, the president and co-founder of Nomi Network, says the organization is named for a young, mentally ill Cambodian girl who was raped as early as age eight. Now 14, Nomi lives in a shelter and her community has pretty much given up on her.
Mao says Nomi is a big reason why the struggling not-for-profit refuses to give up.
"Even though the situation seems hopeless, we really believe as Nomi Network, we are called specifically to target women who feel hopeless and guide them to higher hope," says Mao.
An estimated 32 million women, men and children are used as slaves for sex and labor exploitation around the world and it is believed half of them live in India.
Although the group helps dozens of women escape from human trafficking with educational and work programs, they can see their work is having a ripple effect in more communities.
"They truly are survivors. And I don't want to just call them 'survivors,' I want to call them 'overcomers.' They are overcomers, they are truly victorious," Liu says.