Watch: Indonesian Ima Matul tells US Democratic convention of her journey, from helper, to slave, to anti-trafficking hero
Born and raised in Indonesia, Ima Matul came to the United States as a teenager to work for a promised US$150 per month as a nanny and housekeeper.
But after arriving in Los Angeles in 1997, she was forced to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week cooking, cleaning and caring for the children of a homeowner. She was never paid a dollar. Forbidden to talk to outsiders, Matul was physically and verbally abused for three years before escaping her modern-day slavery.
Matul, who now works to abolish human trafficking, spoke to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night. She told delegates and a national TV audience not only of her wrenching experiences, but also of the anti-trafficking work done by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of the family charity, the Clinton Foundation.
“Before human trafficking began to capture our attention, before there were laws to identify and protect victims, even before I escaped my trafficker, Hillary Clinton was fighting to end modern slavery. And throughout her career, Hillary kept up that fight,” Matul said.
She urged voters to support Clinton to help “end modern slavery everywhere it exists.”
The State Department estimates that more than 20 million people are enslaved around the world in a global, US$150-billion-a-year industry.
Matul told delegates that after three years in captivity, she wrote a desperate, two-word note to a neighbor using the little English she knew: “Request Help.” The neighbour helped her escape and took Matul to an organization that works to abolish human trafficking. Matul now works for the group, the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and has been recognised by President Barack Obama as a leader in efforts to stop trafficking.
“I have hope especially as Hillary Clinton is becoming president,” Matul said in halting English. “I have hope we can end human trafficking.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has called human trafficking a factor in destabilising governments around the world. “It feeds the corruption that is stealing the future of many nations, and it fuels all of the illicit criminal networks that play out in many different ways, not just in human trafficking, but in terms of narcotics trafficking, gun smuggling and terrorist support,” Kerry said last year.