Beauty queen targets human trafficking
By Frank Stirk | Friday, September 10, 2010
Teng is the seventh young womanand the first Christianto be named Miss B.C.
LANGLEY, BCTara Teng does not fit the stereotype of a beauty queen.
Crowned Miss British Columbia last July, the 22-year-old Trinity Western University education student is much more interested in using her year-long reign as a platform for advancing social justice causes than in garnering any personal fortune and fame.
Teng is the seventh young womanand the first Christianto be named Miss B.C. She says she entered the pageant, along with 45 other contestants, because she was "tired of being afraid" to take chances. But she insists she never expected to win.
From childhood, Teng has been passionate about raising public awareness of the global scourge of human trafficking. According to one estimate, she says, 27 million people today worldwide "are actually, literally owned by another person." Half are children and 80 per cent are female. That does not include those at risk of being trafficked.
"When everybody rallies together and they raise their voices to say this is wrong, things change," Teng says. "That's basically what I would love to see happen."
While Teng applauds the fact that Parliament passed Bill C-268, which creates mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of trafficking children, she believes much more needs to be done. To that end, she has begun meeting with Metro Vancouver MPs to encourage them to do more on this issue.
Teng is also in discussions with like-minded organizations such as International Justice Mission, Exodus Cry and the Not for Sale campaign. And she is seeking permission from either Vancouver or Langley civic officials to stage a five-kilometre walk for freedom.
"We're going to teach other people about the issue and connect people with these organizations and connect these organizations with each other, so we can be a stronger force," she says. "I'm hoping to pull that off by March of next spring."
But Teng's social activism does not end there. Last year, with help from the lingerie store where she works, she launched a charity called Undies for Africa. They collect bras and panties for distribution to females in Zambia by a charity called Villages of Hope.
"What we found in our research," Teng says, "is that if women in very impoverished countries are wearing undergarments, we actually raise their social status. And if their social status is higher, they're less likely to be raped or sexually assaulted.
"And if you can prevent rape, you can prevent the spread of infection, you can keep the family unit together, you can prevent the emotional trauma that the woman goes throughall kinds of things. It goes a long way."
In April, they shipped their first donations of over 1,000 undergarments to Africa.
"All the ladies and little girls wrote us letters of how wonderful it was," she says. "They told us stories of how they tell each other that somebody in Canada loves them. It was just really touching to know that it did mean so much to them."
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