Rachel Lloyd, founder of the Girls Educational and Mentoring Service (G.E.M.S.), an organization that works to rescue sexually exploited children, was last year’s recipient of the Black Girls Rock! Community Service Award. She came to the United States in 1997 after years of sexual exploitation to help other women recover from the debilitating pain of being abused and exploited. But it was young girls, she noticed, who remained un-helped and unheard in the struggle to escape sexual exploitation. Thus, with thirty dollars and a borrowed computer, she created G.E.M.S.
Now, ten years later, G.E.M.S. is an internationally recognized organization helping to end the trafficking of young women aged 12-21. Through prevention and outreach, intervention, and youth development programming, they have succeeded in improving the lives of so many girls in New York State.
Some of you may be wondering why Rachel, a white woman, was selected for this award. The answer is that most of the girls G.E.M.S. aides in rehabilitation are Black. As they note on their website, “commercial sexual exploitation is intrinsically linked to racism,” among other systems of oppression.
As further proof of the wonderful work this organization is doing, yesterday, Rachel Lloyd received the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship, which honors “social entrepreneurs” for “their innovative solutions to some of society’s most pressing social problems.” (PRLog.org). Black Girls Rock! honors Ms. Lloyd for her dedication to women’s and girls’ causes, and for her faith that she can make a difference in the lives of others.