Mary Katherine “Katie” Ford on Wednesday urged all sectors to unite in the fight against human trafficking, saying some 30 million women and children all over the world are now victims of the modern form of slavery.
Ford, former CEO of Ford Models, one of the world’s top talent management firm 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.
Ford said Philippines caught her attention after learning that children as young as eight have been forced to prostituion.
“They were recruited with the promise of 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.
Katie admitted that aside from her campaign against human trafficking her other passion is working with cultural minorities and indigenous group. She is presently serving in the board of organizations like the Waayu Taya Foundation in South America which is involved in providing education, healthcare and water.
Ford now devotes her life to her philantropic passions. Ford Models is responsible for discovering Holywood celebrity models Jerry Hall, Jennifer C9nnelly, Kirsten Dunst, Chanel Iman, Patricia Velasquez and Filipino super models Charo Ronquillo and Danica Magpantay.
Ford narrated a young Filipina who was made a sex slave in Jordan. “The girl was beaten. She waa 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 waa brought to the Philippine consul, a taxi driver, 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. Take it your fight to help our children. We can do our share in saving these precious souls,” she added.
Ford said there are now 30 million victims of human trafficking and the ages 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 a sex slave.
United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Labor Organization said some some 375,000 Filipino women are human trafficking victims, aside from 75,000 children.
There are 1.5.million street children and many of them end up in prostitution and drug trafficking.
Philippines is currently ranked under Tier 2 Watch List in the 2009 trafficking in persons report of the US State Department.
Human trafficking are concentrated in various sex dens and girlie clubs in Metro Manila, Angeles City, Olongapo City, Cebu City, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.
Human traffickers also operate in sex tourist resorts like Puerto Galera in Mindoro and Pagsanjan in Laguna, among others.
Cybersex is also popular in San Fernando City in Pampanga and Olongapo City in Zambales.
The Philippines has been cited to have made significant efforts to comply with the standards of Trafficking Victims Protection, hence the Tier 2 upgrade.
This development was mainly due to the passage of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 which was expanded by the 2013 Congress.
Since 2003, some 938 trafficking cases were filed with 42 convictions as of Feb. 2011. JAIME PILAPIL