They were going to be sold for prostitution in 2002. But it never happened. Advocates of an invisible crime, among them Ricky Martin, rescued them at the dawn of day. Almost a decade has gone by after my first encounter with human trafficking and to turn a blind eye to one of the most vicious violation of human rights is simply unbearable.
Statistics - are daunting and contested due to the nature of the crime.
But one life saved by our awareness and educational efforts, validates our mission as advocates of children's rights.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 27 million people are victims of human trafficking and modern day slavery and, year after year, UNICEF estimates that1.2 million children are sold into pornography, prostitution, and servitude, among other forms of exploitation.
Moreover, human trafficking is considered today to be one of the fastest growing illegal business in the world. The billions of dollars generated by this heinous crime is only the tip of the iceberg when you factor in pornography, prostitution and worldwide labor exploitation.
Drug trafficking only surpasses human trafficking.
This "economic crime", as it was recently dubbed in the article Stolen Souls published in Columbia Magazine, holds relatively low risk with high profit potential and criminal organizations are drawn to it, because unlike drugs or arms, human beings - can be repeatedly sold.
And to think that those three girls that were shivering in the streets were next in line to become merchandise is unacceptable. Fortunately they are safe and their hopeful ending, inspire Ricky Martin to establish 'People for Children' in 2004 as the principal project of his Foundation. This initiative serves as a global anti-child trafficking platform to raise public awareness, conduct investigations, and recommend public policy.
Today, December 2 as we commemorate the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, we must remind society that modern day slavery works against human rights.
At the Ricky Martin Foundation, we are committed to end this modern scourge. Since 2004, we have been privileged to partner with: UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity, The Protection Project at The Johns Hopkins University, The University of Puerto Rico, Save the Children, RTL Foundation, The Trafficking In Persons Office and SAP, among others.
We also launched with Microsoft navegaprotegido.org, an online bilingual safety website to prevent children from crimes in the Internet; Call and Live, the first anti-trafficking regional campaign with the InterAmerican Development Bank; and Se Trata, the first anti -trafficking community program in Puerto Rico with Doral Bank.
Most recently, we published "Human Trafficking in Puerto Rico: An Invisible Challenge", the result of an alliance with the University of Puerto Rico, and The Protection Project, which documents that minors in Puerto Rico are at risk of becoming victims of sexual and labor exploitation, prostitution, pornography, and other forms of this despicable crime.
A truth that happens in every country's own backyard, hence our next hopeful ending is the development of our first Child Development and Prevention Center in Puerto Rico to serve as a safe haven from exploitation for children and youth.
As a young public charity, we invite you, your friends, organization and corporation to support our cause. Encouraging one another to put meaning to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states 'no one shall be held in slavery or servitude' through their actions is the right and imperative thing to do.
A decade later after opening my eyes to this atrocious crime, our vision prevails, not one child should be enslaved of their most basic human rights.