In this image released by the Bureau of Education & Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, hands to Simona Broomes, of Guyana, her plaque as a 2013 TIP Report Hero, during the release of the 13th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 in Washington.
As president of the Guyana Women Miners Organization
, one of the world's few women mining associations, Broomes
travels regularly to thriving gold and diamond mining camps in the South American country of Guyana to rescue underage girls working as prostitutes.
was honored among seven other people from all parts of the World for their personal efforts that have made an extraordinary difference in the global fight against modern slavery.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico-As
president of one of the world's few associations for women miners, Simona Broomes
travels regularly to gold and diamond mining camps in the South American country of Guyana to rescue underage girls working as prostitutes.
Many consider it dangerous work given the rugged, isolated and male-dominated environment she
encounters, but that has not deterred the 43-year-old mother of three.
This week, she
was one of nine people worldwide that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry honored for their work in helping fight human trafficking.
recently began carrying a gun after she
was assaulted during one of her
trips earlier this year, and she
began organizing barbecues to help raise money to pay for her
trips after death threats forced her
to close her
mining equipment business about two months ago.
"I'm not going to say to you that it's not risky," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"(But) I have a passion for it. ... As a mother, as a woman, it is hard.
I can't leave them."
was honored Wednesday when the U.S. issued its 2013 report on human trafficking, which again criticized Guyana for allowing girls and foreign women to be forced into prostitution and for relying on child labor.
That's where Broomes
has stepped in, U.S. officials say.
is a consistently powerful, vocal advocate against trafficking in persons and continues to take direct action-often at great personal risk-to protect and assist victims of trafficking," the U.S. Embassy
in Guyana said in a statement.
After Broomes established the Guyana Women Miners Organization last year, which now has 440 members, she quickly turned her attention to helping underage prostitutes.
has rescued 11 girls so far, allowing some of them to temporarily live with her
to avoid the poor conditions at some Guyanese shelters for abused women.
takes the girls to church and to the beauty salon to help reintroduce them to society.
"When you hear the stories, and the things that men do to them ...," Broomes
voice trailing off.
said some of the rescued girls are not picked up from the shelters by their mothers because the women cannot afford to care for them.
The mothers generally already had given the girls over to strangers who promised to find them legitimate work in Guyana's interior.
"After they find themselves there, there is no help, there is no security, there is no communication," she
embarks on one of her
approaches a mining camp director and asks permission to educate those at the camp about human trafficking.
"While doing that, in many cases, I will look to see the language of the girls," she
then quietly takes some of them aside and asks their age.
"They start to panic and cry," she
"One of them said, 'Miss Broomes
, I'm 18.
I want to leave and I can't leave ... could you help me out?'"
Sometimes girls seek help from authorities, but even then they could face danger.
said one girl went to a police station to report she
had been sexually assaulted, only to be assaulted by an officer.
says cases against human trafficking suspects rarely make it to court in Guyana, and officials say no one has yet been convicted of sex or labor trafficking.
Guyana's deputy police chief, Seelall Persaud, told The Associated Press
could not comment on the report because he
was in a meeting but would be available later for an interview.
can work together with government officials so the U.S.
can be less critical of Guyana in next year's report.
"I use the report as motivation to stand to the challenge and say my country will not continue to be on the radar," she