Native Hawaiian Gender-Based Violence

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Photo: Kaleihikina Akaka

In January, I attended a roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono at OHA with organizations supporting Native Hawaiian women and Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence. Presented were the challenges these organizations face, the need to better combat this epidemic, and ways we can support Native Hawaiian survivors.

The roundtable included representatives from OHA, Hawaiʻi State Commission on Status of Women (HSCSW), Partners in Development Foundation, and Hale Kipa. I would also like to recognize the bravery of survivors Kalei Grant and Ashley Mahaʻa for sharing their harrowing experiences and acknowledge all the good work they do to find solutions.

Photo: U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and Trustee Akaka
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (left) and Trustee Akaka. – Courtesy Photos

OHA is working to safeguard Native Hawaiian women, children and families through both state and federal initiatives. OHA works with HSCSW, administering a Task Force to study Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls (MMNHWG), which includes representatives from over 22 Hawaiʻi organizations. On March 8, OHA Chair Hulu Lindsey testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs requesting that Native Hawaiians be included in any federal legislation or funding to combat human trafficking in Indigenous communities.

According to the 2022 Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force Report:

  • More than a ¼ of missing girls in Hawaiʻi are Native Hawaiian;
  • The average profile of a missing child: 15-year-old, female, Native Hawaiian, from Oʻahu;
  • 43% of sex trafficking cases are Kānaka Maoli girls trafficked in Waikīkī, Oʻahu;
  • On Hawaiʻi Island, Kānaka Maoli children ages 15-17 represent the highest number of missing children’s cases, with the most children reported missing in Hilo (area code 96720);
  • From 2018-2021, there were 182 cases of missing Kānaka Maoli girls on Hawaiʻi Island, higher than any other racial group;
  • 57% of participants served through the Manaʻolana Program at Child & Family Services are Native Hawaiian females who have experienced human trafficking.

In December, President Biden signed in to law legislation introduced by Hirono to allow Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence to access critical programs and resources provided by Congress through the Violence Against Women Act.

Photo: Sen. Hirono’s roundtable discussion group
Sen. Hirono’s roundtable discussion was attended by OHA trustees Akaka, Alapa and Souza, OHA CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey, representatives of local organizations working to support Native Hawaiian women, and survivors of gender-based violence.

There is a strong need for us to continue educating and healing our community. I look forward to further shining a light on this issue through future conversations and community outreach.