Human trafficking is often explained as the three-pronged modus operandi that includes Act,
Means and Purpose. While our team has worked in every aspect of anti-human trafficking work in
multiple countries and understands the complexities of this nefarious crime, the modes of
transportation, routes and documentation of victims of trafficking have always grabbed my
It is only over the last decade or so that the movement and routes traffickers use have received
more attention. To effectively scale victim identification and intercepts, requires the global antitrafficking
movement to pay more attention to the relocation of victims.
Since my very first outreach to places of exploitation, I felt compelled to understand how it was
possible to move victims of human trafficking with ferries, aeroplanes, airports and seaports.
“How did you get here” is always my very first question because I have to lead the team to find
ways to help victims access a place of safety and justice as determined by law.
Human trafficking is a very congested, and confusing intersection, where everyone struggles to
find a way out for the trafficked ones with minimum financial and human resources. It is at this
point that the majority of us feel it is impossible to rescue more than 40.3 million people who are
stuck in exploitative and slave-like situations. Like us, they too hope that today is the day when
someone will help them find the way to freedom and a dignified lifestyle.
It was on that day in 2012 when I accepted the invitation to visit a Red Light District in Singapore
where I collided with my purpose. Off course, I thought it would be a stroll in the park and that
seeing young girls and pimps lining the streets with migrant workers, medium-income and
professional men roaming the streets for the one they preferred. With a Julius Caesar mindset of “I
came, I saw, I conquered”, I stepped into that Red Light District which changed me forever.
The “I came” part was easy because I fulfilled a promise. The “I saw” part broke my heart and
made me realise how privileged, conservative and protected I was. That I never knew such a world
existed, let alone that there are people who are not free, never even crossed my mind. I was
ashamed that my life was all about my life, my future and me. Never once did I think about others.
Crying is not natural for me, but that night I wept for people in exploitation hopelessly looking out
for someone that cares enough to love them to freedom and hope for a better life.
I did not conquer. The wounded, left on the battleground of the fastest growing criminal enterprise
in the world, captured my heart.
Since then, they have taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to admit “I’m broken”, acknowledge
my weaknesses, ask for help and make the most of what I have where I am. They have taught me
that real love removes labels, tags, and its sticky glue. They’ve shown me that in that very moment
when we connect, look each other in the eye and genuinely care, nothing else matters, but you.
“Your well-being is my only concern” is a sweet discovery and pivotal point.
Once we’ve parted ways, and we get to work on finding solutions to restore hope, their faces,
names, voices, fragrance, hugs and little hand squeezing yours so hard, is the fuel that keeps one
going, committed to cleaning up this sticky, bitter and unpleasant trafficking jam that destroys
lives and dreams.
Over the years people have told me how brave I am and that they admire me because they can’t do
it. My response is always “Not everyone is wired to make anti-human trafficking work a full-time
career. Not everyone can cope with the emotional impact or speak up on behalf of them for the
justice they deserve entitled to. Not everyone can provide dignified employment. Not everyone can
educate at-risk communities to prevent more lives from being snatched into the human trafficking
systems. Among all these truths, and despite your fears, there has to be something that you can
contribute to help grow the 1-2% of human trafficking victims rescued to even 5%.”
As I’m writing this blog, my heart is heavy. The heaviness is not because of the work but because I
am deeply concerned about the one who is my WHY. This morning I read her status where she
describes how heartbroken she is because her family didn’t expect her to come home for the big
family gathering.
Even though I know there is nothing more that I could have done for her and the many others
because our teams didn’t have the resources back then, I do know that they know where to find me
when they need a friend. I
I’ll continue to say, “Yes, we can” because every victim of trafficking deserves the rights I take for
granted. How about you?
Yes we can