We are big on celebrating women all year round at LifeWay Network, but Women’s History Month gives us a special opportunity to highlight some amazing women who are changing the world. Last year we asked our staff about women leaders who inspire them. This year we asked a few of the survivors in our safe house communities who they particularly admired.
One survivor said, “I admire anyone who came through something traumatic to do something good for other people. Rachel Lloyd was trafficked herself and used her experience to help other women find strength and purpose. She started GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services).”
By the time she was 23, Rachel Lloyd had escaped prostitution and immigrated to the US, where she founded GEMS at her kitchen table with nothing but a computer and $30. The brutal and callous treatment young girls often received at the hands of both their pimps and law enforcement motivated her to start an organization that would provide services that the system at the time either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. Now GEMS is one of the largest service providers of its kind, helping hundreds of young girls a year.
Lloyd has gone on to publish a book about her experience, Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, and produced a Showtime documentary, Very Young Girls, on the problems that young girls and women who are being sex trafficked face. She’s also been a legislative force, lobbying for the passage of New York’s Safe Harbour for Sexually Exploited Children Act. She has turned the tragedy of her early life into victory. As Lloyd herself said in an interview, “My pain has become my passion and I find true joy in my work, in my life, and in seeing ‘my girls’ fulfill their purpose too.”
Another survivor stated, “I admire Christine Caine because she started the hugest human traffic agency there is- the A21 Campaign.”
The A21 Campaign is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, so it’s a fitting time to honor its founder. Christine Caine founded the A21 Campaign with her husband Nick after seeing posters for missing children who were being trafficked in Greece. Caine has reasoned that knowing human trafficking is such an enormous problem is the first step towards eradicating it, so her organization has created numerous programs to educate both the general public and potential victims about the horrors of human trafficking.
A21 has a remarkable international impact, with 13 offices in 12 countries including Greece, Ukraine, Australia, the United States, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Norway, South Africa, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Spain and Thailand. They provide shelters and transition homes to survivors and work with law enforcement to prosecute pimps and johns. Caine understands that human trafficking can feel like an impossible obstacle, but she firmly believes in everyone doing their part: “If we understand we can’t do everything but we all must do something, and we all find the one thing that we can do, then we’ll find that together we will all make such a huge difference and we’ll be able to put a stop to this.”
Our safe house guests have found remarkable role models who are the personification of female empowerment; they should inspire us all. Happy Women’s History Month!