More than 1000 sisters in 80 countries are part of the Talitha Kum network, which has existed since 2004.

The sisters buy children from brothels and oversee a network of safe houses in Africa, the Philippines, Brazil and India, where they provide shelter for children who are at risk from being sold into slavery.

Investment banker and philanthropist John Studzinski chairs the network. Speaking at the Trust Women Conference on women’s rights and trafficking, Studzinski revealed the current network would be expanding to 140 nations as the demand for efforts to combat trafficking and slavery was rising globally.

Studzinski also said that the religious sisters go to great lengths to rescue women, often dressing up as prostitutes and going out on the street to integrate themselves into brothels. ‘These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don’t trust the local police. In some cases they cannot trust male clergy,’ he said, adding that the low-key group preferred to focus on their rescue work rather than promotion.

‘They work in brothels. No one knows they are there.’ He said, ‘I’m not trying to be sensational but I’m trying to underscore the fact this is a world that has lost innocence...where dark forces are active.’

Studzinski said the network of religious sisters also targeted slavery in the supply chain, with sisters shedding their habits and working alongside locals for as little as two US cents an hour in order to uncover abuses.

The group estimates that 1% of the world’s population is trafficked. Of those, 70% are women and half are aged 16 or less.