Today, the International Labour Organization (ILO) states forced labour in the private economy generates US $150 billion in illegal profits per year, making it the world’s most profitable crime. There are almost 19 million victims globally who are exploited by modern slavery so today I’m here to tell you my story.
My name is Rani Hong. I’m from a small village in the Southern region of India, Kerala. I was stolen from my family when I was seven years old and sold into slavery. I was taken to another state, where I did not know the language. I was terrified. A little girl with no one to answer my questions or dry my tears, abandoned and alone.
My treatment was so appalling that by age eight, my physical condition and emotional state were so dire that I was near death. No longer of any value to my slave owner, I was sold for international adoption into the United States.
I tell you my story today because my case is not unique, there are millions of others out there – like me, imprisoned, enslaved, and silenced – who are unable to tell their story.
I am here today, serving as a voice for those who don’t have one – against modern day slavery and forced labour. Every day I work to raise the voice of survivors of slavery, to empower them and work with global leaders in the movement to end human trafficking.
One of the most memorable days in my efforts to get this issue on the international agenda was 3rd October 2013. I remember it like it was yesterday, as I had the privilege of addressing the United Nations General Assembly, gathered in New York City for their 68th session. My hope was to raise awareness of the continued plight of millions of enslaved people throughout the world, and by drawing attention to their suffering, bring hope for new ways to pursue their freedom.
One way to accomplish this, I truly believe, is through the designation of a day being formally set aside in which the world recognises these issues, and that serves to remind the world of the need to protect the rights of victims of slavery, forced labour and human trafficking. I am pleased to report that my ask before the United Nations General Assembly was approved. 3oth July will be forever known as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Another step in the fight against forced labour has been the adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda which has been a milestone towards global sustainable development and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, in particular 8.7, set out a clear call to prevent forced labour in supply chains. The G20 has now also committed to fostering the implementation of labour, social and environmental standards and human rights.
This was a huge achievement, but I am now encouraged by the collaborative actions of others who seek to bring an end to one of the most pressing social issues of our time. I am, therefore, pleased to get the support of The Consumer Goods Forum, an organisation that actively promotes responsible business actions to help eradicate forced labour in global supply chains and help speak for those without a voice.
In 2016, The Consumer Goods Forum – whose member companies directly employ nearly 10 million people – became the first to issue a public commitment to end forced labour in its supply chain. The commitment required the industry to publicly acknowledge and accept the issue, and commit to addressing it.
The Consumer Goods Forum is now working with a number of other stakeholders, like the International Labour Organization and Institute for Human Rights and Business, to find ways to eradicate forced labour from global supply chains. They’ve also just recently published a booklet promoting business actions against forced labour.
Seeing the concrete actions of these groups is an absolute embodiment of hope for former victims. As a former victim, I am also pleased to announce that my Foundation – The Tronie Foundation – is also taking tangible action in the form of our 3-point plan. The plan will support a fundamental shift in workplace standards and a zero-tolerance culture for modern day slavery as well as helping business and markets to be part of the solution. Deserving companies should be recognised and the marketplace should be informed of these actions. Therefore, I look forward to rewarding companies who join our efforts.
So whether you are an individual consumer or part of a large multinational, I call upon all of you to commit yourselves, both individually and within your communities, to create a world we know is possible: a world in which every person has the right to human dignity. Today, I ask you to engage with us to take concrete actions that will have a global impact and lead to permanent change. I ask that you help us to end modern day slavery and forced labour once and for all. One thing is certain, we won’t achieve success without collaboration. We are stronger together!
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