Co-Founder, New Life Sto­ries

Singapore Women's Weekly (Singapore) - - GREAT WOMEN OF OUR TIME 2017 -

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.

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