Sex-trafficking: it's on the rise. And whilst it might most commonly be assumed to be a Third World problem, that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, as Jada Pinkett Smith told Grazia Daily exclusively, it's happening in your town, your city - your neighbourhood. And it has to stop.
"Human trafficking today is not only taking place in developing countries miles away," Jada, a founder of non-profit organisation dontsellbodies.org, told Grazia. "It is happening in our towns, cities and neighbourhoods. The common denominator is that there is always some kind of emotional need amongst these young girls and so you have these predators who understand how to play on those needs and how to lure the girls into their traps. We need to work to reduce these vulnerabilities and to take more responsibility."
In this issue of Grazia we report on the shocking underground world of child exploitation and prostitution in Britain. Rebecca Mott, who was lured into the sex industry at just 14 in her hometown near Cambridge, speaks candidly of her experiences - and urges others to stand up for women's rights.
Which is exactly what Libby Spears is hoping to inspire with her new short film, Jessica's Story, which she directed as one of many provocation films produced in conjunction with the Chime For Change Campaign, an initiative founded by Gucci which aims to empower women around the globe, through justice, health and education. The film tells the story of a young woman held at gun point aged 17 in L.A., and forced into a car where she was raped repeatedly by up to 20 men - and subsequently kept as a sex slave for years thereafter.
"If it's happening in another far-off country, somewhere in the Third World, people tend to have this immediate sympathy," Libby told Grazia last week. "But when it happens in their own country they tend to be very dismissive and assume it was a runaway kid, or a problem kid or a troubled kid. The hope is that people look at Jessica's story and say realise that's not true. What happened to her wasn't her fault.
"One thing I always tell people is that a lot of girls are susceptible to this, and trafficking is a real problem that exists in First World countries. People think that it just happens so far away from them - and obviously we need to have sympathy for those who are abused in other countries too - but it's not a choice for any of these girls. It's not their choice to be locked up in a dog cage. Or branded with the name of their pimp by a tattoo on their neck. It's not their choice to be repeatedly beaten or raped.
"I'm hoping that Jessica's story changes people's perceptions of this subject - and humanises it."
Beyoncé with Frida Giannini, who are both ambassadors for Chime For Change
On Saturday, stars such as Beyonce, Madonna and Florence + The Machine will be joining together in a landmark concert to be broadcast around the world from London's Twickenham Stadium to raise funds and awareness for girls and women globally. As founder, Gucci will underwrite the concert event so that all ticket sales will support projects pursuing change for girls and women, specifically in the areas of Education, Health and Justice. Tickets for the concert are available through the campaign website, www.chimeforchange.org/concert and via Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.co.uk or +44 (0) 844-847-1693). Consider us on the edge of our seats...
This week, the CHIME FOR CHANGE storytelling platform has released powerful stories of courageous girls and women around the world. Just as Madonna commanded our attention at the Chime For Change concert back in June, so she is again with her inspiring video on women's education - just one of five original films now live showcasing the plight of strong women around the globe, including Beyonce.
The short films, made by acclaimed directors and curated by Executive Producer Salma Hayek Pinault and lead by Gucci Creative Director Frida Gianni. Don't miss out - check out the films here. And prepare to be seriously inspired.