Blog­ger plans to tackle sex traf­fick­ing head-on

The Tribune (NZ) - - OUT & ABOUT - MIRI SCHROETER

A Manawatu woman will be go­ing to Asia to raise awareness about sex-traf­fick­ing, as sex­ual ex­ploita­tion af­fects mil­lions of boys and girls world­wide.

Char­lotte Cook, 20, is choos­ing an over­seas ex­pe­ri­ence that she hopes will help to min­imise sex-traf­fick­ing by ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the hor­rific is­sue.

She will doc­u­ment her jour­ney to Cambodia, Thai­land and Laos through an on­line blog, Face­book and reg­u­lar pod­casts on Ac­cess Manawatu.

Cook, who blogs un­der the name Good Char­lotte, has fears over in­ves­ti­gat­ing sex­traf­fick­ing in for­eign coun­tries but said it was a nec­es­sary ac­tion to cre­ate awareness.

‘‘I am afraid but I don’t think you can achieve any­thing with­out go­ing out of your com­fort zone,’’ she said.

‘‘You need to take the risk, if it could help peo­ple in the world.’’

Cook will spend the first few weeks with an or­gan­i­sa­tion, Destiny Res­cue, in Cambodia at the end of May.

She will spend three months in Asia with sex-traf­fick­ing vic­tims, coun­cil­lors and pro­gramme or­gan­is­ers, at learn­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres.

Cook will also visit red-light dis­tricts but her main work will be with vic­tims who are post-res­cue – to keep her­self out of highly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

Cook said her par­ents took a while to come around to the idea of their daugh­ter re­search­ing in dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory alone.

‘‘I’m sure at times mum has nearly booked a plane ticket to go with me, but it’s my jour­ney,’’ Cook said.

She funded the trip her­self and wants peo­ple who are ‘‘choos­ing to ig­nore’’ the sit­u­a­tions to take ac­tion.

‘‘Knowl­edge is power, ig­no­rance is not bliss, it’s cow­ardly,’’ she said.

Cook also wants to ed­u­cate tourists who are sim­ply un­aware of the is­sue.

‘‘There are peo­ple that use the ser­vices be­cause the girls ap­pear to be will­ing,’’ Cook said.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple go trav­el­ling and don’t re­alise that these are il­le­gal sex or­gan­i­sa­tions.’’

Hav­ing grown-up in Manawatu, Cook felt lucky.

‘‘I’ve been blessed with so many op­por­tu­ni­ties, like win­ning Miss Teen Manawatu,’’ she said.

Cook is pas­sion­ate about so­cial change and wants to share her ex­pe­ri­ence of Asia in the hope that it will cause a rip­ple ef­fect for more peo­ple to help stop sex-traf­fick­ing.

Cook even­tu­ally wants to study and is in­ter­ested in jour­nal­ism.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Manawatu-bred blog­ger Char­lotte Cook plans to raise awareness about sex­traf­fick­ing when she trav­els to Asia.

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