Nomi Network honor 7 women at 8th annual gala in New York

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Kelly Gage and other members of the Nomi Network Board of Directors give their thanks to guests of the 8th Annual Nomi Network Gala.

NEW YORK – Nomi Network, a leading anti-human trafficking non-profit organization, whose focus currently is on serving vulnerable women in India and Cambodia, honored seven outstanding women at its 8th Annual Gala & Awards ceremony, at Tribeca 360, in Manhattan, last month.

Launched in 2009, Nomi Network (https://www.nominetwork.org/) serves as an economic agency for the empowerment of survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. It provides direct training, capacity building for organizations and social enterprises that employ survivors; and ethical sourcing options for brands that want to reduce their child and forced labor footprint.

The organization also produces a small collection of bags and accessories, and 100% of the profits from product sales are directly invested back into training and education opportunities.

(From left to right): Members of Nomi Network staff at Gala – Diana Mao, Co-Founder & President; Jessica Story, Accountant; Elisabeth Louie, Executive Assistant; Sweena Varghese, Director of Strategic Partnerships; Janay Frazier, Visual and Technical Designer; Princy Prasad, Sales Manager; Alissa Moore-Williams, Co-Founder & COO; Supei Liu, Co-Founder & VP.

Diana Mao, President and Co-Founder of Nomi Network, informed that human trafficking enslaves approximately 46 million people globally and of this number, 70% are women and girls.

“In spite of these daunting numbers, I am confident that the monumental achievements of our gala honorees will see the eradication of modern day slavery in our lifetime,” said Mao.

Actor Penn Badgley and his wife Domino Kirke enjoy the Nomi Network Gala.

There was a sprinkling of celebrities in the crowd at the sold-out event, including actor Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl and The Paper Store), who gave the keynote address, and actor Harry Lennix (The Blacklist and Man of Steel).

This year, at the gala, the Abolitionist Award was presented to Emily Nielsen Jones, who co-founded Imago Dei in 2009 with her husband Ross, and her daughter Lexi Jones; the Global Ambassador Award was presented to Jeannie Mai of Fox’s Emmy nominated talk show, The Real; the Abolitionist Award was presented to philanthropist Nicola Forrest and her daughter Grace Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation, an international human rights organization in Australia that focuses on the eradication of human trafficking, run under the aegis of the Minderoo Foundation; the Corporate Social Responsibility Award was presented to Sarah Middleton of the PIMCO Foundation; and the debut Founder’s Award for Outstanding Service was presented to Nomi Network Board Member Emeritus Susan Lee Cheung.

Honorees from previous years have included actress Mira Sorvino, Mamie Gummer, Julia Ormond, TOM’s Blake Mykoskie, and Patagonia’s Wendy Savage. Leading companies such as Carlson Hotels, LexisNexis, and Exxon have also been recognized for their continued support and actions for the cause of Nomi Network.

India is a focus for Nomi Network.

Princy Prasad, Sales Manager, Nomi Network, revealed that the non-profit wants to expand its India program to five new sites, including West Bengal and Odisha.

“We have a 10-year goal of 100 million dollars raised and 1,000,000 women reached,” said Prasad.

An Indian American, Sweena Varghese, is a key member of Nomi Network, in the New York office, serving as the Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Dancer Sheryl Rajan wows the crowd with dance and music mixing Indian culture with modern American music, at the gala.

Donors who contribute approximately $2400 help to sponsor one woman over the span of 18-24 months. This covers instruction, materials, and administrative costs, to help them get a job in fashion production. The earning potential for these women rise after the training to $2000-$4000 per year; their lifetime income is 52 to 300x the initial investment.

DJ Ekvinder starts the party at the Nomi Network Gala.

Take the example of a once trafficked woman in India, Naj, a survivor of intergenerational prostitution. Her parents were involved in sex trafficking as their main profession. After she got married, Naj was trafficked by her in-laws.

Naj finally managed to escape from prostitution, after her mother-in-law died. In 2013, she joined Nomi Network’s program with her younger daughter, Dara. Post-training, Dara is now a logistic support staff at Nomi Network’s India office and Naj has continued to work part-time as a cloth sewer. Both diligently saved in order to start their own businesses.

Emcees for the evening were comedians Cory Cavin (left) and Kevin Doyle (right).

In 2015, Naj purchased her own sewing machine and in February 2016, she started a chicken business. She began purchasing chickens from a local market in small quantities, but with the positive market feedback, she began ordering more chicken in bulk from a nearby town. Today, she sells her product locally earning 10,000 rupees per day. The average semi-skilled worker in the village earns at most 200 rupees per day. She has hired six employees to help manage her business.

At the gala, swag bags made by women in India, which retail for $63 – made of organic cotton canvas, with recycled sari lining, vegan leather accents, and metal buckles and hooks – were handed to guests. A unique aspect of the sturdy bag is that the name of the woman who made it is imprinted on the face of it.

Actor Harry Lennix introduces the winner of the Global Ambassador Award, Jeannie Mai.

Since 2012, Nomi Network has been providing workforce training for women in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, which has the country’s highest rates of bonded labor, caste discrimination, and social inequality.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)