I wanted to listen to every girl's story and the stories were all so different. Some had been kidnapped, some lured by love and the promise of protection, some were 11 years old. I listened and I cried with the young ladies. I watched them dance. I heard them sing. I asked lots of questions. They were so open and so brave. They were very beautiful girls and very articulate.
New York (PRWEB) June 30, 2009
GEMS: Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, the nation's largest survivor-led organization serving American girls and young women who have experienced sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, is joining forces with Beyoncé Knowles, Halle Berry, Demi Moore, Sinead O'Connor, Mary J Blige, Katie Ford and women across America for its Girls Are Not for Sale campaign. Kicking off July 7th with the Netflix debut of the critically acclaimed Showtime documentary 'Very Young Girls', the campaign will use e-activism, live events, all-star artist collaborations and other initiatives to promote girls empowerment and education as critical tools in the fight against child traffickers and pimps who victimize between 100,000 and 300,000 American children and teens each year.
"The girls of GEMS have emerged as powerful young leaders in this movement," says Rachel Lloyd, Founder and Executive Director of GEMS. "They have successfully advocated for groundbreaking legislation to protect young victims in New York State, challenged misperceptions of survivors through 'Very Young Girls' and other media work, and every day, serve as peer support for girls who walk through GEMS' doors. We are thrilled that they are gaining new allies in these smart and powerful women."
Grammy-winner Beyonce Knowles first learned about the girls of GEMS when she saw 'Very Young Girls' six months ago. "I don't know how anyone could see that documentary and not want to help those young women," says Knowles. "I didn't want to just donate money, I wanted them to know that someone really cared about them. My time, my heart, my ears, and my voice are the biggest gifts I could think to give."
Shortly after seeing the film, Knowles asked to meet the girls personally. "I was scheduled to visit for two hours but I ended up staying five hours," Knowles recalls. "I wanted to listen to every girl's story and the stories were all so different. Some had been kidnapped, some lured by love and the promise of protection, some were 11 years old. I listened and I cried with the young ladies. I watched them dance. I heard them sing. I asked lots of questions. They were so open and so brave. They were very beautiful girls and very articulate."
Knowles pledged to help the girls reach a larger audience, and on July 24th, will host dozens of GEMS' survivors at her concert at the IZOD Center in New Jersey. "I realized that they were no different than I am. If I grew up with some of the struggles and challenges they have had to deal with and live with every day, I could have possibly been them and vice versa. After hearing the shocking stories of what those young ladies have gone through, I want to use my voice to do what I can to bring awareness to this horrific sex trafficking that happens right here in America."
GEMS hopes many more women will join Knowles and other artists in spreading the girls' message. The organization has launched a national social network, The Council of Daughters, to empower women and girls to bring the needs of young survivors into local communities. Through its online hub - http://www.councilofdaughters.ning.com - Council members can meet, share news and ideas, plan campaign events, raise funds and introduce the needs of girls to their friends through a variety of social media tools.
Beginning July 7th, Council members across the country, in conjunction with Netflix, the world's largest online movie rental service, will host National Viewing Nights to celebrate the online and DVD premiere of 'Very Young Girls'. The film, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, UK, Canada, Australia and Israel since its international broadcast premiere on Showtime Networks in December 2008, profiles Lloyd's work with numerous girls as they struggle to heal from the trauma of their experiences. Kicking off in New York City, the viewing nights will travel across the country before arriving in Los Angeles on July 14th.
Also beginning July 7th, Netflix will offer its more than 10 million subscribers the opportunity to instantly watch 'Very Young Girls' on their computers or TVs via streaming from Netflix. The film can be instantly streamed on TVs through a variety of Netflix ready devices, including Blu-ray disc players and new Internet TVs from LG Electronics, Blu-ray disc players from Samsung, the Roku digital video player, Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console and through TiVo digital video recorders. The film can also be watched instantly on PCs and Macs with high-speed Internet access and can be received from Netflix on DVD as well. Netflix offers a two-week free trial subscription for those interested in trying the service.
Lloyd, named one of Ms. Magazines '50 Women Who Change the World', believes the Campaign and Netflix partnership will also correct the impressions many Americans have of trafficked and commercially sexually exploited youth. "So often our girls are viewed as 'teen prostitutes' when they are in fact children who are bought and sold by adults to adults. 'Girls Are Not for Sale' paves the way for women across the country to join survivors as we work to create a nation in which girls are celebrated, not sold."
A survivor of commercial sexual exploitation as a teen in Europe, Lloyd founded GEMS 11 years ago with a borrowed computer and $30 when she saw American girls lured or abducted into the sex industry being ignored and stigmatized by traditional service providers. Over a decade later, the organization annually serves more than 275 survivors, and provides outreach and training to over 1,000 youth and more than 1,500 service providers, educators and law enforcement professionals. A leading voice in the field of child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in America, Lloyd is the author of the upcoming book 'Acceptable Victims' (Harper Collins in 2010), the subject of a feature film currently in development at Participant Productions and Lifetime Networks, and a 2006 recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award.
About Girls Are Not for Sale
Girls Are Not for Sale is a national campaign with one goal: to inspire one million Americans to take easy, effective actions to nurture and empower American girls who have become victims of child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, and, to protect all girls from the dangers of trafficking. Sparked by the overwhelming public response to the Showtime film 'Very Young Girls' and the survivors whose lives it chronicles, the Campaign brings the movement to protect and empower girls to cities across America through live events, grassroots action, ad campaigns, fundraising drives, film premieres, music recordings and much more. For more information, visit http://www.girlsarenotforsale.org and http://www.facebook.com/girlsarenotforsale.
Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) is the nation's largest non-profit organization specifically designed to empower American girls and young women, ages 12-21 who have experienced sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth. In 2008, GEMS provided counseling, job training, access to health care and crisis housing to more than 280 young women; provided outreach to more than 1,500 youth; and trained 1,000 youth service workers. Aside from these programs, GEMS also provides a continuum of services including Youth-led facility outreach, street outreach, court advocacy and an Alternatives to Incarceration program, case management, education, recreational and therapeutic groups, youth employment and leadership training, transitional & crisis housing, and referral services. For more information visit http://www.gems-girls.org.
About Netflix, Inc.
Netflix, Inc. is the world's largest online movie rental service, with more than 10 million subscribers. For one low monthly price, Netflix subscribers can get DVDs delivered to their homes and can instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed to their TVs and computers, all in unlimited amounts. Subscribers can choose from over 100,000 DVD titles and a growing library of more than 12,000 choices that can be watched instantly. There are never any due dates or late fees. DVDs are delivered free to subscribers by first class mail, with a postage-paid return envelope, from 58 distribution centers. More than 97 percent of Netflix subscribers live in areas that generally receive shipments in one business day. Netflix has partnered with leading consumer electronics companies to offer a range of devices that can instantly stream movies and TV episodes to members' TVs from Netflix. For more information, visit http://www.netflix.com/.