Generation 414 was birthed out of the anguish of my experience of South East Asia during one summer break in 2012.
I was brutally confronted with the way local women were callously treated by male tourists. At night, streets were lined with high-school aged girls and children selling their bodies for cash. I was often approached by male tourists and mistaken to be a prostitute because of my Asian descent.
Pattaya: A modern day Sodom and Gomorrah
One night, I was along a beach in Pattaya and witnessed a retiree-aged man sitting by the water’s edge, doing unspeakably disgusting things to a little girl — a girl who looked no older than five years’ old — as another man filmed the abuse in plain sight. What I saw broke my heart.
On another occasion, I sat eating dinner at a restaurant, as a sex tourist laughed jovially from a booth beside me, touching and stroking an underage girl’s arm. As an Asian woman, I thought to myself…
What’s going to happen to her after this meal? What is going to be done to her tonight, and the night after that — until someone steps in and offers her an alternative life?
Sungai Kolok: Border town best known for smuggling and prostitution
Then, there was the night where I woke to the sounds of screams echoing through our hotel; the words ‘Tolong! Tolong! (Help! Help!) being repeated over and over. I’ll never forget the despair and terror I felt as I looked through the peephole of my front door, and saw a young girl being dragged down the corridor by two large men. Heart racing, I felt myself wanting to burst through the door and help, but I also knew that if I did, there was a high chance they would take me as well. This was a well-known trafficking spot in Malaysia, and the risks were high. Police corruption was so rife that we couldn’t even call the police.
That night, as I stood on the other side of the door completely helpless, a frightening thought wormed its way into my mind…
This is just one floor, in one hotel, in one red light district. What is happening on the other floors? What about other hotels and buildings across the world?
Sadly, this was just one of many instances of exploitation that I witnessed. Though I was powerless in that moment to do anything, it lit a fire inside of me to find a way to stop this from happening to others.
I knew the statistics: that currently there are 46 million people trapped in slavery around the world today. Trapped in brothels, factories, mines, in homes and on street corners, they are hidden in the shadows with no voice, no future and no hope.
Back in Australia...
I couldn't turn a blind eye to what I had experienced, and I was determined to do something about this. In response to this dismaying experience, I flew back to Australia to conduct some further research. I then spent a year travelling to various trafficking hotspots globally; working with anti-trafficking organisations to learn all I could about the issue.
I learnt that girls were often driven into the sex industry or sold to human trafficking syndicates due to extreme poverty. And more than 50% of rescued victims end up in the brothels again in less than two months, as they have no other alternative ways of making a living to provide for their families.
Being an Asian myself, I am resolved to be the voice for those whose voices cannot be heard. I am determined to help girls in Asia become financially independent. My hope is to provide dignified employment and personal development opportunities to women who seek an alternative to the sex industry.
I gathered a few passionate like-minded friends, told them about my dream and together Generation 414 was born. My hope is that through Generation 414, consumers will become a generation which will make a stand against the exploitation of children and women. That we will be a generation that will be the change we wish to see in our world. A world where all are safe and FREE.