Fabulous Female: Rachel Lloyd

Every Friday I want to introduce you to an amazing woman, who makes a real difference in the world. This Friday’s Fabulous Female is Rachel Lloyd.

Rachel Lloyd is an anti-human trafficking activist,  founder and Chief Executive Officer of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, behind the documentary Very Young Girls and the memoir Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale.

A survivor of commercial sexual exploitation in her teens, Lloyd has a unique personal understanding of the young girls she works so hard to help. She established GEMS in 1998 on her kitchen table, with just a borrowed computer and $30 and a dream to help young girls and women escape from commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.  What started as a one-woman organization is today the largest organization of its kind in the US, and helping hundreds of young women and girls.

Raised in England by a single mother, Lloyd had a hard childhood dealing with the poverty of her family, her mother’s alcohol abuse and her abusive stepfather. At the age of 13 she left school and began supporting herself through shoplifting and nude modelling, progressing to stripping and prostitution. Her body still bares the scars of violent beatings from her pimps and boyfriends.

At the age of 17 she moved to Germany to try and rebuild her life, but ended up on the street again. In 1994, at the age of 19, she was finally able to escape from her situation with the help of an American military family and a church on a US Air Force Base in Germany. She immigrated to the US in 1997, where she began studying and has since then taken a Bachelor in Psychology from Marymount Manhattan College and a Masters in Applied Urban Anthropology from the City College of New York.

Despite her hard life she does not regret her experiences saying: “There have been experiences I would rather not have had and pain I wish I hadn’t felt–but every experience, every tear, every hardship has equipped me for the work I do now,” Lloyd says. “I get such deep satisfaction from knowing I’m fulfilling my purpose, that my life is counting for something. It puts all the past hurts into perspective.”

Through GEMS Lloyd has worked tirelessly as an advocate for girls and young women, and has among other things helped pass the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act, to help protect trafficked children from being treated like criminals. Rachel Lloyd has achieved several awards and acknowledgements for the work she does, such as the 2009 Ashoka Fellowship, the Reebook Human Rights Award, the Child Advocacy Award from The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and many more.

Please check out the important work that Rachel Lloyd do through GEMS and considering reading her memoir Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my list.

Had you heard about Rachel Lloyd and GEMS? What do you think of the work she does against sexual exploitation of children and trafficking?
Do you have any other suggestions for brilliant ladies I can feature as a Fabulous Female? 

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