Interview with investigative journalist on human and child trafficking, Lydia Cacho
Lydia Cacho is an award winning investigative journalist who single-handedly exposed a powerful human trafficking network in her native Mexico. She’s been imprisoned, tortured and raped in an effort to shut her up, but that didn’t stop her. She’s travelled the world to investigate further and to write ‘Slavery INC’, a book about how sex trafficking networks operate and connect all over the world.
I met her at the Ubud Writers and Reader’s Festival, in Bali, and asked her a few questions about her work and what keeps her going.
Lydia, you’re a woman who has gone beyond the call of duty to investigate sex trafficking networks and to bring them to justice, with the price of your own safety. But what can normal citizens do to contribute against sex and child trafficking?
If you’re a woman of economic means, never underestimate the power of your money being invested in changing other people’s lives. Most of NGOs around the world right now are suffering from the lack of money and funding, as big donors are moving away from gender and child issues, and they are surviving thanks to individual donors who every month are giving small amounts.
Also, if you’re a business woman or a man who can influence opinions, you can use your influence to convince your local politicians to review immigration laws and protection of women. Better treatment and salaries for women will stop trafficking because it is an issue that has a lot to do with gender violence but it’s mainly an economical issue.
It’s equally important to create awareness of the issue in Western societies. When I was in Italy promoting my book, a man, in his 50s, stood up and said ’Lydia, I just read your book before I came for your presentation and I have to say I wish I knew all this when I was 20, because I never understood that whenever I went to these high class brothels, I would be a partner in crime.’ We have to stop talking about trafficking only in its criminal aspect. I think a lot of people can do a lot for the cause.
Of course, not everybody has to do things the same way I do. Not everyone is a Mafia expert; there are different ways of going about changing the situation. Business people can influence things differently. If for example you produce things in a different country, how you can contribute it by making sure you only use ethical sources, only those companies who are not exploiting women and children.
Your courage is admirable. We know you are constantly under threat from the Mafia and yet you keep going. How do you deal with living in fear?
I feel fear. But I don’t live in fear. Fear has become my friend to let me know when to flee, when to react or when to go to court. But it doesn’t freeze me. I have never been frozen by fear, not even when I was a little girl. I used to be quite strong and fearless and nothing used to stop me. I guess it has a lot to do with my personality.
But I cry a lot, I go to therapy, I work with myself, I sometimes get angry and I’m working with that anger, I don’t want to let it become physical and emotional pain. I’ve learnt through the years how to use fear to understand myself and to understand dangerous situations. I’ve used it to plan ahead to protect myself and my family.