G!RL BE HEARD kicked off the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this morning at the Armenian Convention Center in Manhattan. And WOW – these girls have a powerful message.

The 57th CSW theme is elimination of all forms of violence against women and children. No timid toe testing of the waters here … we jumped straight into the deep end of the subject: human trafficking.

Here are a few facts I learned this morning:

  • 60% of girls/women in the US (the numbers are higher in 3rd world countries) will experience some form of physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime
  • 34% of girls become pregnant before the age of 20
  • 98% of human trafficking for sexual gain is with girls … the majority under the age of 16
  • studies throughout Europe have proven a direct correlation between pain and aggression
  • human trafficking operates on the economic principle of supply and demand
  • human trafficking continues unchecked because of its tremendous profitability
  • only very recently have women’s rights become equated with human rights

GIRL BE HEARD shared their stories from 3 different countries – the US, Mexico and the Ukraine. Their poetry, music and dance softened the delivery of the intense, grotesque details … but not much. The stories were enough to turn my stomach and make me cry.

Leading researchers in this subject – here at the CSW from Austria, Italy and India – promise us that there are three things that will alter the course of this social disease:

  • Personal SECURITY
  • Viable CHOICES
  • Freedom to have a VOICE

I have my own theory on why this criminal and morally appalling behavior is allowed to continue – it’s damned hard to talk about.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room of 900 women this morning who wanted to crawl out of my skin. It’s nearly unbearable to listen to these young girls spill their anger and pain. But we can’t fix something that we’re unwilling to talk about – straight on – no holds barred.

There was a day each of us would have sworn we didn’t know someone who had an abortion or a baby out of wedlock, had a family member with mental illness, knew someone who had AIDS, or … you get the picture. Times have changed only because we summoned the courage to open the discussion and in doing so, discovered that our honest sharing and support brought us together.

This morning we were assured that if we were willing to pay attention … and listen … we’d discover a young woman in our own back yard who has been a victim of human trafficking for either sexual or labor gains. This is especially true if we live in an urban area with a population from Indonesia, Asia, and South America.

So … here’s my challenge … for myself and you. Dare to keep your eyes and ears open for signs of this horrific crime against a soul. And when you have the opportunity … open your heart to give a young girl the right to have a voice.

Really listen. You won’t break. I promise. Your life might never be the same again … and that might be a good thing.