Mary Katherine “Katie” Ford on Wednesday urged all sectors to unite in the fight against human trafficking, saying some 30 million women and children worldwide are victims of this modern form of slavery.
Ford, former chief executive of Ford Models, one of the world’s top talent management firms that was founded by her father in 1946, graced the launching of “iFight Against Human Trafficking” sponsored by Zonta Club of Pasig, organized by Visayan Forum and held at Hodalgo Place in Rockwell, Makati City.
“There are 27 million people enslaved in the world. It’s infuriating. I believe we can end it,” Ford, now a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Human Trafficking, said.
Ford said the Philippines caught her attention after learning that children as young as eight have been forced to prostitution.
“They were recruited with the promise of a better life. Poor people are vulnerable. But we believe this should be stopped because the loss of one’s freedom is the loss of the most fundamental human right, and that modern slavery robs millions of people around the world of their lives,” she said.
Ford cited the case of a Filipina who was made a sex slave in Jordan.
“The girl was beaten. She was able to escape. But you know she did not speak the language there and did not know anybody and much more where to go and ask for help. You know how she was brought to the Philippine consul? A taxi driver, a Filipino, saw her.”
Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, Visayan Forum Foundation president, urged women to volunteer and be iFighters.
She said many have already come forward to help in the prevention of human trafficking in Yolanda-stricken areas.
“Don’t be bystanders. Make it your fight to help our children. We can do our share in saving these precious souls,” she added.
Ford said the ages of victims of human trafficking range from 14 to 24.
She narrated a case in New York City where a female foreigner, a college graduate who could speak English, was enticed by a group of men to go with them. She ended up being a sex slave.
The United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Labor Organization said some 375,000 Filipino women are human trafficking victims, aside from 75,000 children.
The Philippines has been lauded for making significant progress in its efforts to comply with the standards of Trafficking Victims Protection. This was mainly due to the passage of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, which was expanded by the 2013 Congress. Since 2003, some 938 trafficking cases have been filed and there had been 42 convictions as of February 2011.