Student belly dancer Sophie Mei wins Amnesty award

image captionSophie Mei featured in the 2008 series of ITV's Britain's Got Talent

A University of Manchester student, known for belly dancing on Britain's Got Talent, has won a journalism award.

Sophie Mei, 23, won Student Human Rights Reporter of the Year at the Amnesty International Media Awards for an article about human trafficking.

Miss Mei, originally from Sheffield, wrote her piece about trafficked women she had met in the Yorkshire city.

She said she would continue with both her interests because "my heart's in journalism and my belly's in dancing".

Miss Mei, who is in her final year studying Philosophy and Social Sciences at the Manchester institution, said she had come across the story while doing charity work.

"I started working with a charity, who deal with a lot of victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation," she said.

"Through that, I got to know a lot of the victims and, as I was also working as a freelance journalist, I was interested in it as a story.

"One of the girls came to me after a large court case and said that she wanted to sell her story.

"We really didn't want to go down the whole red-top newspaper route, so I said to her that if she was happy for me to write it, I will."

Miss Mei's article was picked up by The Observer newspaper, who funded a trip for her to go to Romania and meet both those that had been trafficked and the traffickers themselves.

She said the experience had a profound effect on her.

"Personally, it really challenged me.

"We often see trafficking from the victim's side - and so we should - but actually looking at the trafficker's family and getting to know them, you realise it is such a deeper problem."

The resulting article, which was published in The Observer and on Miss Mei's Verita Magazine website, won her the Amnesty award.

Miss Mei said that she hoped the award would lead to a career in journalism but was not about to give up on her dancing as a result.

"I'd never want to say goodbye to it completely, but it is really my hobby.

"I don't always want to have to rely on belly dancing to produce my income.

"The truth is that my heart's in journalism, but my belly's in dancing."

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