SALEEMAH ISMAIL, 48
Co-Founder, New Life Stories
An encounter with underage victims of the sex trafficking trade in Batam in 2003 changed Saleemah Ismail’s life. “I met girls who were 13 to 15 years of age who had been trafficked into prostitution,” she recounts. Saleemah was working as a volunteer translator then, but in an instant she was spurred to do more to fight for women and girls. “I remember vividly a 14-year-old girl named Lara, who even at that tender age had already serviced 300 clients,” says Saleemah through tears. “The difference between me and her was $22, the cost of a ferry ticket from Batam to Singapore.” Two decades on, the memory has not escaped Saleemah and neither has her pledge to do more for women. After serving on the board of the now Singapore Committee for UN Women for over 10 years, she is currently spearheading New Life Stories, a non-profit organisation that supports pre-school education for the children of incarcerated mothers while helping them to mend fractured family ties.
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “Learn to listen, as the best advice comes in the quietest of moments.”
NEXT UP: “I’m hoping we can support more mothers and children, but to do that we need more resources. So, we’ll be drumming up awareness for New Life Stories.”
Cotton shirt dress from Weekend Max Mara.