Editor’s note: Lauren Hersh is New York Director of Equality Now and head of its Sex Trafficking program combatting violence against women and girls. She is a former prosecutor at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office which covers Brooklyn.
By Lauren Hersh, Special for CNN, New York
Three months ago, Ruth came into my life. Sixteen years and two weeks old, Ruth is spunky and smart.
She loves Hello Kitty and iced coffee, listens to Alicia Keys and spends days planning her Sweet 16 outfit. Ruth wants to build schools in Africa. Her contagious smile lights up a room. But, for years, the smile I have come to love was hidden.
Ruth is not her real name. She is a sexually exploited child. At 12, after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, she met an older man who promised to love and care for her. Instead, he brutally beat her, repeatedly raped her and sold her for sex more times than she could count.
There is a common misconception that girls like Ruth choose to enter prostitution. This could not be further from the truth. FULL POST
Activist Cecilia Flores-Oebanda explains to CNN the challenges she faces every day running an anti-trafficking organization in the Philippines.
In the video interview above she says the trafficking gangs regularly threaten her life but can't stop her, and neither can the frustrating shortcomings of the Philippines political and legal systems.
Oebanda adds that winning the support of boxing superstar and Filipino hero, Manny Pacquiao has given her a new drive.
By Krupskaia Alis and Rafael Romo, CNN
Joanna moves her hands nervously as she speaks. Her oversized, golden earrings rattle as she shakes her head to make a point. Joanna is not her real name. She's speaking on the condition that CNN will protect her privacy and not disclose her real name. She's only 16 years old, but has already experienced a lifetime of horror, abuse and torture. She's a former sex slave.
It all started when she met a charming man. "I was in a normal relationship with him for three months," she says. At the time she was only 14 years old. She was treated like royalty and fell in love. A few months later he asked her to elope and she agreed.
"He promised that we would get a house and that we would raise children. I was naïve and believed everything he said. We started living together in July and by September he was already forcing me to work as a prostitute," Joanna said.
By then it had become painfully clear that Joanna's boyfriend was in reality her captor, a pimp who preyed on young, vulnerable teenagers whom he recruited in central Mexico with the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. FULL POST
As France commemorated the 150th anniversary of its abolition of slavery, modern forms are regularly surfacing.
Sylvie O'Dy, president of the Committee Against Modern Slavery, said 122 people were freed from bondage last year in France and she believes that figure is the tip of the iceberg.
Tina Okpara was legally adopted in her native Nigeria and taken to France by football star Godwin Okpara and his wife.
Her birth family agreed to adopting the 12-year-old girl thinking she was heading off to a better life, but once in France, she was kept out of school and made to work as a domestic, sexually abused and mutilated. After running away, she eventually managed to convince local authorities of her plight. The Okparas were convicted and jailed.
In another case, a Cambodian refugee named Sok was held in cruel conditions and – according to his lawyer - forced to work by a French mother and daughter who took advantage of his mental incapacity for more than 10 years. Denied medical treatment he pulled out his own teeth with a pliers. Eventually the French women were taken to court. Sok is now a ward of the state.
CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney talks to a group of long-distance runners raising awareness about human trafficking.
Cecilia Flores-Oebanda has spent her life fighting - as a child for some education, as a teen rebel against a dictator, and for more than 20 years against human traffickers.
She has become the face of the Philippines anti-trafficking movement - a woman who has the ear of presidents, royalty and philanthropists around the globe.
Along the way she persuaded the biggest name in the Philippines - boxing legend Manny Pacquiao - to join her fight.
After two years of reporting in the Philippines – from going on police raids in Manila to going undercover in search of human trafficking in remote provinces - CNN can now tell their story.
Rescued girls describe how they were recruited by traffickers, the ordeals they endured - sometimes by men a computer click and half-a-world away - and how Oebanda saved them.
Now Oebanda is fighting a battle that could truly ruin her reputation and the organization she created - fraud allegations made by Philippine investigators.SPECIAL REPORT
By Atika Shubert, CNN
(CNN) Like so many Indonesian women, Eli Anita wanted to earn more money than she could at home.
In 2007, she moved to Dubai through a labor recruitment company where, she says, her manager immediately began harassing her for sex, at one point becoming violent.
“He got very angry and he also beat me and kidnapped me in the bathroom for many hours. He locked the door,” she says in broken English. FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - A Mauritanian anti-slavery activist, Biram Dah Abeid, will be honored on Friday by the human rights group Front Line Defenders. Abeid, who is the head of a group called IRA Mauritania, was featured last year in the CNN documentary "Slavery's last stronghold." Mauritania, a desert country in West Africa, was the last country to abolish slavery; and an estimated 10% to 20% of its population lives in some form of slavery, according to Gulnara Shahinian, the UN's special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
The Mauritanian government has denied slavery's existence in the country but does operate a program for formerly enslaved people.
Abeid was selected from 100 nominees in 40 countries, according to Front Line Defenders. The award, given to "human right defenders at risk," will be presented at a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, and will be given by Irish President Michael Higgins. FULL POST
By Bibek Bhandari, Special for CNN
Kathmandu, Nepal - Bijaya Limbu is an experienced circus performer who enjoys his art - but his introduction to the traveling showbiz lifestyle came through human traffickers who bought him from his parents.
While other children watch the circus in awe, Limbu was just nine when he was first forced to work in a circus.
He says he was trafficked from Nepal to a circus in India, and forced to perform for four years until he was rescued.
Limbu's story highlights the state of human trafficking in Nepal, where poverty coupled with lack of awareness fuels the trade in children. FULL POST
World champion boxer Manny Pacquiao has had more than 50 professional fights. But none may be more important than the battle he has joined against the trafficking of tens of thousands of women and children.
Pacquiao, who is also a lawmaker in his native Philippines, teamed up with campaigner Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, who has spent 20 years trying to protect victims of sex slavery and forced labor.
CNN spent two years documenting her struggle as she enlisted the help of Pacquiao. The resulting full length film premieres on CNN International on May 17 and 18. Watch the trailer here.
Download the Fighters-End It boxing glove here, share it with your friends and join The Fighters to end modern-day slavery.