Founder and President
In 1998, at just 23 years old, Rachel Lloyd founded Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) at her kitchen table with $30 and a borrowed computer. She was driven by the lack of services for commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls and young women and the incredible stigma and punishment they faced from service providers, law enforcement, the courts, their families and society.
Sixteen years later, her indelible impact on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking has helped shift the perception of trafficked girls from criminals to victims and now to survivors and leaders. GEMS is now the largest service provider of its kind in the nation providing intensive services and support to over 350 girls and young women, preventive outreach and education to 1,500 youth, and training over 1,300 professionals each year.
Rachel is well-known for her tireless dedication to ‘her girls’ and has impacted thousands of individual lives through her love and commitment, but she is also passionate about changing public perception and policy. Her courageous advocacy ensured the passage of New York State’s Safe Harbour for Sexually Exploited Children Act, which in 2008 became the first law in the nation to protect and not punish trafficked and exploited youth. Since then 13 other states have followed suit.
She co-produced the ground-breaking Showtime documentary Very Young Girls, which has been seen by over 4 million people and created a national dialogue on the issue. Rachel is also the author of the critically acclaimed Girls Like Us, and has used her unique voice to advocate for survivors at the White House, the United Nations, and before Congress.
Nationally recognized for her innovative work in transforming the movement’s understanding of survivor leadership, she continues to pave the way for survivor leaders across the country. In 2014, she was honored as one of the “20 Women Changing the World” by Marie Claire Magazine and a recipient of the C10 Award 2014, which celebrates ten global leaders and their fight against the trafficking of children. She was also a recipient of a 2009 Ashoka Fellowship, and the Frederick Douglass Award from the North Star Fund, among many other accolades.
Rachel received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Marymount Manhattan College and her Master’s in Applied Urban Anthropology from the City College of New York.
C10 Award – 2014
Heart Matters–UJA Federation of New York – 2014
Shirley Chisholm Women of Distinction Award – 2014
Celebrating Women Award–New York Women’s Foundation – 2013
Beacon of Light Award–My Life My Choice – 2013
Exceptional Merit in Media Award for her memoir Girls Like Us–National Women’s Political Caucus – 2012
Child Advocacy Award–The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) – 2010
Prime Movers Fellowship – 2010
Change.org’s Changemakers Network – 2009
Heroes for Youth Award–National Safe Place – 2009
Black Girls Rock Award – 2008
Social Entrepreneurship Award–Manhattan Institute for Policy Research – 2008
Community Service Award–New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators – 2007
Uncommon Courage Award–Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding at Queens College – 2006
Auburn Theological Seminary Lives of Commitment Award – 2003
The Union Square Award – 2001
Esther House Award – 2001
The Long Walk to Freedom Award–Community Works – 2001
Community Service Award–Soroptimist International NY
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Award
“A World For Girls” – Huffington Post, September 2013
‘Prostitute’ label ignores victimhood” – LoHud.com, December 2012
“Urban Legends and Hoaxes: How Hyperbole Hurts Trafficking Victims” – Huffington Post, February 2012
Girls Like Us – Harper Collins, 2011
“The Power Behind Policing Fashion” – Huffington Post, August 2011
“Rachel Lloyd: Me and Amy” – Huffington Post, July 2011
“Corporate Sponsor Pimping Plays Role in US Human Trafficking” – The Grio, January 2010
“GEMS Combats Sex Trafficking” – The Daily Tell, January 2010
Contact: Twanna Toliver
Photo by Phil Borges