Canadian Woman Advocates for Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking

Daily Point of Light # 5973 Apr 6, 2017

After an extraordinarily successful ten-year run in the United States, L’Oreal Paris has expanded the Women of Worth program to include a Canadian edition. In the program’s inaugural year, Points of Light and L’Oreal Paris Canada recognized and celebrated ten women who selflessly volunteered their time to serve others throughout their local communities, their provinces or, even, across Canada. For exceptional commitment to service, each honoree received $10,000 to donate to a charitable organization of her choice, and a national honoree received an additional $10,000 grant.

 

Cheryl Perera was just 16 when she learned that a global sex trade in children was flourishing. “I was researching for a high school project,” she recalled. “I went to the library, borrowed a book and as I was flipping through the book, my eyes became transfixed on a description of the child sex industry in Thailand. I was horrified and enraged.”  Wanting to obtain an insider’s look into the child sex trade, Cheryl embarked on a fact-finding mission to her native Sri Lanka where she partnered with the law enforcement and played the main role of the decoy—a 15 –year-old prostituted child—in a STING operation that ended in the successful apprehension of a child sex predator.

But, the Ontario, Canada resident soon realized that letting her anger get the best of her wouldn’t help these children in any way, so she decided to channel it into positive change. “I was 17 – but I thought if other young people learned about this violation of the rights of the child, they would want to help their peers,” said Cheryl.  That’s when Cheryl founded OneChild in 2005, with the mantra that “even one child exploited is one child too many.” OneChild harnesses youth power – and some very influential adults as well – to spread awareness, lobby their governments and the private sector, and raise funds to rescue, rehabilitate, and empower survivors. 

Cheryl is a pioneer, having sparked Canada’s anti-child sex tourism movement by launching the first-ever campaign to lobby the travel industry to take action against child sex tourism. Her next steps are to expand rehabilitation and reintegration services in Asia; expand child rights training and leadership training for survivors in Canada to transform into advocates, and bring national service providers together to explore how young people can be meaningfully engaged in anti-sexual exploitation programming and policy.

“Although I’ve been running OneChild for over 10 years, it has so much potential and the need is greater than we’ve ever witnessed,” said Cheryl.

Cheryl continues to challenge herself to stay abreast of the best methodologies to push the anti-child sex trafficking movement to the next level as an Atlas Corp fellow. Atlas Corps engages leaders committed to the nonprofit sector in 12 to 18 month, professional fellowships at organizations to learn best practices, build organizational capacity, and return home to create a network of global changemakers. Cheryl is completing her fellowship at CARE in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about the other extraordinary L’Oréal Paris Canada Women of Worth honorees.

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