Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for the second time in less than a month, shared her story of a karate exponent from Bihar, whom she met during her trip to Kolkata in May. Ms Clinton told the audience in Washington about how confident and inspiring the girl was.
"One young girl, full of life, came up and asked me if I wanted to see her perform some karate moves, and I said of course. And the way she stood up, so straight and confident, the pride and accomplishment in her eyes, was so inspiring," Ms Clinton told a select audience at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department where she launched the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report on Tuesday.
"This was a child who'd been born in a brothel to a young mother who had been forced and sold into prostitution. But when her mother finally escaped and took her daughter with her, they were out of harm's way and finally able to make choices for themselves,"Ms Clinton said referring to her short-interaction with 16-year-old Poonam Khatoon.
On May 6, oozing with confidence, Poonam had told Ms Clinton that she was a karate champion and asked whether she would like to watch her perform. Ms Clinton laughed and asked Poonam to show some of her skills.
"Now I don't know what's going to happen to that young girl, whose image I see in my mind's eye, in the years and decades ahead. But I do know that with a little help, her life can be so much better than her mother's. And that's what we need to be focused on, and it's what we need to try to do for all victims and survivors," Ms Clinton said.
Soon after her return from New Delhi, Ms Clinton had narrated the story of her meeting with this karate girl to reporters in Washington. "It wasn't so much the karate as it was the way she stood so straight, looked me in the eye, had a sense of pride and accomplishment about her," Ms Clinton had told reporters.
Ms Clinton said it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what is sometimes call trafficking in persons. These victims of modern slavery are women and men, girls and boys, she said, adding that their stories remind one of what kind of inhumane treatment "we are still capable of" as human beings.
"Some, yes, are lured to another country with false promises of a good job or opportunities for their families. Others can be exploited right where they grew up, where they now live," she said.
"Whatever their background, they are living, breathing reminders that the work to eradicate slavery remains unfinished. The fact of slavery may have changed, but our commitment to ending it has not, and the deeply unjust treatment that it provides has not either," she added.
Noting that the US is not alone in this fight, Ms Clinton said many governments have rallied around what they call the "three P's" of fighting modern slavery: prevention, prosecution and protection.
"This report which is being issued today gives a clear and honest assessment of where all of us are making progress on our commitments and where we are either standing still or even sliding backwards," she said.
"When I met with the people who were working with victims in Calcutta, I met several young women from the United States who had been inspired by reading about and watching and going online and learning about what was happening in the efforts to rescue and protect victims, and they were there in Calcutta working with organizations, NGOs and the faith community to do their part," Ms Clinton said.
"So this is a moment for people to ask themselves not just what government can do to end modern slavery, but what can I do, what can we do together," said the Secretary of State.