There are stories and then there are miracles. Some miracles such that they change the world. If that sounds like a hyperbole, then go ahead and read the story of Rani Hong.
Originally an Indian who was taken away from her family in southern India at the age of seven, and sold to a slave master. She fought a near death experience and now she spearheads Tronie foundation, a global UN accredited organisation to end human trafficking and modern day slavery. Sounds unreal? It is. And hence I caught up with her at the United Nations in New York.
I first heard this power woman speak at the United Nations. It never felt like she had ever been kidnapped from India, taken to Canada and tortured, caged, staved, beaten and faced a near to death experience. She spoke as a former UN advisor on human rights.
So one would definitely wonder what was that first turning point in her life where that breakthrough moment came about. Changed her from a victim to a leader in this fight?
“When I was reunited with my birth mother for the 1st time in 1999 I knew something had to be done to fight this criminal activity so I decided to become an advocate for the unheard voices for children around the world.” Says rani with absolute confidence in her eyes as she globe trots around the world to save so many who are suffering this dark truth that plagues the world.
Her #calltoaction address at the United Nations nearly had the world at the edge of their seats.
“A foster mother changed my life. It was miraculous. I was blessed in a way. I had no respite in sight from the torture of slavery and almost losing my life to it. That’s primarily why I am bringing a global solution to this problem. My goal is to eradicate this dirty truth from the world one day at a time. The end game for this is through my FSI project framework. I’m working on making companies disclose their actions against forced labor and child trafficking in their supply chains,” adds Rani.
One can only sit back and imagine the kind of mental trauma she may have been through once her childhood ended at the age of 7.
“Please see my childhood photos that speak more than a thousand words,” she adds. I wondered how this woman manage to stay so mentally strong and resilient today.
“It was very difficult but I chose not to focus on the pain from my past and only look into the future. I want to see children in India free from this trade in India. Outside of a handful, none of the victims have that turnaround. It is a lifetime of healing for those of us that go through this type of trauma. My foundation hopes to achieve this dream of mine,” adds Rani.
It is a fact that more than lakhs and lakhs of people are trafficked across the border around the world. What then is the way forward with global jurisprudence and legislation? “On behalf of global sustainability network, I went before the EU on October 11th to discuss how 28 countries in the EU should do to move forward on this issue.”
“I successfully helped pass the first state level anti trafficking law in Washington. I also made a keynote address that was hosted by the UK government and now we now have close to 78 countries who have agreed to make this issue a priority. India still needs to come around and join this movement. I find it unfortunate India is still taking time with this but hopefully it will. Efforts are on from my end. We need to focus on getting India onboard and work to launch a national campaign in 2019 in India.”
“I have traveled to over 25 countries in the last 20 years asking the world for help to change the systems that traffic the little girls like I was - imprisoned, enslaved and silenced. Today I speak for those without a voice and making the impossible possible. The power of possible,” she says with an unbeatable conviction in her voice. Rani in a way has come about to be the face of rescue mission globally with many others at the GSN who are working on this.
On a war footing, the world today needs to tackle supply chain in human trafficking. Rani feels companies around the world are not held responsible enough for forced labor. There needs to be a call to action on changing the laws. “My strategy is the positive vs negative messaging. For example I reward, highlight and promote those who take proactive steps to ending slavery. One can see India is not on the list which is very disappointing to me. India is my home country who I would love to work with India once they welcome me back home and give me a platform to work with the legislators on this issue.”
“Sometimes I really feel my country needs to apologise to me and many victims like me for failing to protect children like me. I will be in India on December 10th on human rights day and hopefully get the movers and shakers to start working towards this goal that i have dedicated my life to.”
Rani is vociferous, she is fearless. “I’d also like to add that media today tends to mostly cover what is ‘sexy’ and not focus enough on forced labor, modern day slavery, child trafficking. Legislators, executive and judiciary around the world in the Asia pacific tend to turn a blind eye. I have witnessed a lack of political will. It time and again has failed victims like me. I was lucky enough to get salvaged by a foster mother. Most victims are not.
According to Rani, what needs to be done on ground in a concrete fashion is countries coming together a working on action steps to prevent this crime, bring laws, identify the supply chain issues and work with foundations and NGOs who are committed to salvage these victims. “I call them all to action and will continue to do so,” concludes Rani.