Russian pop star Valeriya fights human trafficking

Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:17am EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russian pop star Valeriya says she is drawing on her experience as a battered wife and "slave" to help migrant workers break free of sexual exploitation and forced labor in her homeland.

Valeriya was formally named on Tuesday as goodwill envoy for the Russian Federation on behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an agency she has teamed up with for the past year to combat human trafficking.

"I meet and talk to these people, I am not a professional psychologist but I am sure I can help people with my own experience as an ex-victim of slavery. I suffered a lot of domestic violence," the blonde 40-year-old told a news briefing.

"I was forced to work for a man, my (former) husband, who treated me like a slave. So I feel I know the subject maybe even more than many others and am ready to help people with all my heart," she said.

Valeriya -- who only goes by her first name -- has sold 100 million CDs. She is entering the British music market, where she has been dubbed the Russian Madonna, with an English version of her album "Out of Control."

Her anti-trafficking clips already appear on Russian television and she plans to dedicate some of her concerts around Europe next year to raising public awareness of the problem.

"This evil exists... it is among us," she said.

"Sometimes we artists, actors and musicians are able to bring more public attention to a problem than officials or politicians. We speak the language of emotions and feelings."   Continued...

<p>Russian singer Valeriya gestures during a news conference at United Nations European headquarters in Geneva August 12, 2008. Singer Valeriya is being nominated on Tuesday as a goodwill envoy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the Russian Federation, she will collaborate on the prevention of human trafficking. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>