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Sylvia Ui’lani Matayoshi

Sylvia Ui’lani Matayoshi

Sylvia Ui’lani Matayoshi is a highly skilled subject matter expert, first responder, and international award-winning leader with a proven skill set in the international human rights space and a career spanning over 25 years, making a significant impact in combating human trafficking, supporting operations and survivors impacted by major crimes, and promoting human rights. She is an advisory board member for Armatech Global ( continuing her mission to combat human trafficking and promote human rights.

Sylvia was nominated and selected recently to participate in Aerial Recovery's Heal the Heroes Program and is an active member of the first all-female Platoon-5, comprised of an elite team of US veterans and first responders who have a demonstrated skillset and are able to respond to humanitarian and human trafficking needs throughout the world. (

Her journey is a testament to her extraordinary dedication and passion, as evidenced by her most recent honours. During her 2019 United Nations International Women’s Day talk, Sylvia was presented with the Rose Award by Zonta International. She is a four-time keynote speaker commemorating United Nations International Women’s Day. Sylvia was named one of the Human Rights Award's nine outstanding winners by the US Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights (USIDHR) in 2022. She was recognized this same year during a speaking assignment by members of the State of Hawai’i House of Representatives as being honored with a proclamation and acknowledgement of her service to the people of Hawai’i and abroad. Sylvia has helped lead emergency humanitarian missions, providing support and oversight of mission logistics for the people of Ukraine, Polynesian and the Middle East.

Heal the Heros, the Aerial Recovery Group Platoon-5

Sylvia's early professional experiences on the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART/PACT Unit) of the Honolulu Police Department served as inspiration for her ongoing work. She was a founding board member for the Ohana United Children’s Hope Foundation and Na Pua Aloha Inc., a family peace agency sponsored by Kupuna (Elders) from the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, based on the North Shore of Oahu, which had the highest rate of reported domestic acts of violence cases in the state and one of the highest nationally, yet they did not have any victim or offender services in the 27-mile stretch of coastline. Sylvia’s volunteer efforts, in collaboration with a few community members and first responders who answered the call, met a critical need within their beloved home community in Ko’olauloa on Oahu.

Sylvia served as a domestic violence director, managing a countywide 18-bed domestic violence shelter, survivor advocates, community volunteers, a legal advocacy drop-in center, and six police domestic violence response teams. Because of this recognized expertise, Sylvia was tribally recruited by two tribal police departments and was able to establish, lead, and sustain two tribal special victim units for a total of sixteen years. Sylvia was a commissioned police officer and managed the day-to-day operations of these programs. Supported by the Office on Violence Against Women of the US Department of Justice, she has continued to provide imperative services in Indian country for the past 24 years. These programs serve a crucial role in dealing with major crimes, including domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking, and human trafficking. These vital services continue to provide ongoing assistance to the most vulnerable, especially murdered and missing indigenous women and their families. Over a 20-year period, Sylvia was elected by her peers to lead five county and tribal task forces. She is a trained and sworn Family Court Guardian Ad Litem and has served as a court-appointed special advocate, working for the best interests of children who are in dependency cases.

This award from the Hawaii House of Representatives recognizes Sylvia as an expert on violent crimes and commends her for her efforts to stop human trafficking.

A turning point in her career came when Sylvia was invited to participate as a faculty member for the Domestic Violence in Indian Country Training Pilot (DVICTP) program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre. Her expertise led her to attend, by invitation, a "Trafficking in Persons Briefing" at the US White House. This pivotal experience marked her growing influence in the field. Sylvia's dedication extended to her role as the Human Trafficking Program Manager for a new joint Trafficking Response Team, a collaborative project involving the Asian Pacific Islander Safety Center, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Seattle Police Department Vice Unit, and a US Federal Agency. She served on the first Washington State Governor’s Human Trafficking Task force and trained delegations from Tanzania, Senegal, Russia, Japan. Korea, Iraq, Philippines and Albania.

During this time, Sylvia's impact reached international proportions. She served as an advisor on the United Nations Beijing +5 Prepcom and multiple UN Commission on the Status of Women sessions, where she played a vital role in co-sponsoring UN policy along with the US Delegation, focusing on prosecuting those who perpetrated the demand for trafficked victims.

Sylvia has served as a Violence Against Women/Human Rights Advisor to Ambassadors and NGOs at UN-CSW sessions. Her responsibilities included training delegates and heads of state. She served as an advisor to a UN Permanent Mission, assisting with CSW negotiations. Sylvia assisted with transnational child trafficking cases for a UN Ambassador and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, further solidifying her international expertise.

Heal the Hero's Aerial Recovery Program in the British Virgin Islands.

Sylvia’s influence extended beyond her contribution the United Nations. Sylvia's commitment led her to work on a human trafficking mission to Brazil, on assignment with the U.S. State Department. Sylvia's tireless efforts also included serving as an expert witness for the Northwest Intertribal Court System.

Sylvia was recruited as the first full-time female member of an operations team for an international anti-trafficking (Child rescue) NGO. In this capacity, she worked alongside colleagues with backgrounds that included prior work experience with the CIA, HSI, Navy Seals, US Army, and law enforcement service. Sylvia was recruited to work as Vice President of Strategic Mobilization, primarily focusing on rescue operations and rehabilitation efforts within the West Coast, Hawaiian Islands, and Indian country. She provided ongoing support as the lead agency operative in helping establish a series of sting operations in collaboration with a state law enforcement agency. This effort led to the arrests of 128 individuals and the successful rescue of 24 children. Sylvia's role included providing advice, analysis, and protocol support, as well as participating in Taskforce-facilitated trainings and providing technical assistance to various organizations and law enforcement agencies. While supporting victims and their families impacted by exploitation.

Sylvia's college studies focused on organizational development, leadership and psychology coursework and experiential learning. While attending BYU, she participated in the Teton Mountain Leadership Institute. Her college internships and practicum work took place at Kahuku High School, the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Scientific Investigation Division of the Honolulu Police Department. Sylvia is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Centralia College.

Her dedication has guided her to participate in FBI, FLET-C and United Nations trainings and various meetings, further enhancing her knowledge. Sylvia has presented at numerous local, national and international conferences on issues relative to major crimes, aftercare program development, first responder and advocate resilience.

Ms. Matayoshi’s path is evidence of her persistent dedication to protecting the most vulnerable in society and promoting human rights. Her outstanding achievements and dedication to this work continues to inspire positive change on a global scale, making her a true champion in the fight against human trafficking.

Layla Love, founder of Rise of the Butterfly.

“I was introduced to Sylvia Ui’lani Matayoshi by a group of human trafficking survivors that now lead the survivor movement across the US, who recommended that we work together. We have since teamed up to support each other's missions and work with our respective teams and in partnership with other nonprofits in the anti-trafficking field. Over the years Syliva has provided her insight and consultation. To bring her onto the team as the Chief Operating Officer of Rise of the Butterfly is a great honor. She inspires us and guides us on how to become impact multipliers in a field that needs as much volume for the voiceless and exposure as we can create.

Sylvia exemplifies an extraordinary force to be reckoned with, characterized by an unparalleled passion and unwavering drive toward the advancement of humanity. Her innate ability to instill a collective sense of purpose, foster visionary thinking, and promote the maximization of impactful contributions is truly remarkable. She advocates for the support and expansion of global initiatives, consistently setting the highest standards for altruistic commitment.

Sylvia's heart is unquestionably composed of pure gold, and her determination is as unyielding as steel. Her dedication serves as an invaluable source of inspiration for all fortunate enough to be in her presence. It is indeed an exceptional privilege to welcome Sylvia as the Chief Operating Officer of Rise of the Butterfly, where her visionary leadership and dedication are poised to make a transformative impact on the organization's mission and beyond.”

Matthew Osborne, President and Chief Operating Officer of Operation Underground Railroad (

“Sylvia was my Director for Strategic Mobilization, and she did a fantastic job helping lead our efforts to rescue exploited children in the U.S. and around the world, and to incarcerate the pimps, pedophiles, and traffickers who would do them harm. Sylvia has the unique combination of a soft heart for the victims and a steel will to confront the perpetrator, and I was proud of how she excelled as the first full-time female on the O.U.R operations team and also assisted our aftercare department with the vital rehabilitation work that must occur after the rescue.

Sylvia possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in combating human trafficking; it is truly her passion and calling. She quickly became the go-to person on our team whenever we needed insight or analysis on academic or public policy views of this issue. During her time at O.U.R, Sylvia provided valuable technical assistance to staff, volunteers, groups, and individuals seeking information and assistance with case referrals, research, and public inquiries. I felt comfortable asking Sylvia to speak on behalf of O.U.R. to groups both large and small, and her presentations were always well received. 

Sylvia has a worldwide rolodex of contacts who are experts in their field, and she is a natural bridge-builder. During her time at O.U.R., she helped advance O.U.R. outreach efforts throughout the Pacific Northwest, the Hawaiian Islands, and Native American lands.”

Jody Parr, International Best-Selling Author and Certified Master Life Coach.

Human trafficking survivor.

“As we know, there are all kinds of heroes in this world. When I think of a hero, I think of Sylvia Matayoshi. As someone who has decades of experience entering the dark world of human trafficking and chooses to fight so she can help rescue others out of it, putting others lives before our own is a gift from God. I know God put Sylvia on this earth for that purpose.

From the moment I shared a panel with her, she has been a very important person in my life. As a survivor myself, she has spoken words of encouragement and wisdom to me many times. I am blown away by the way she is so selfless and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. She is strong and doesn’t back down to the giant known as human trafficking.

Sylvia is a modern warrior and goes straight into this war in any way she can. She is a voice for those who have no voice. She is a fighter for those who are held captive every day; she is the hope for a very hopeless world.

I am very thankful and blessed to know this amazing woman. When I had the chance to

interview someone for International Women’s Day, I knew I wanted to interview Sylvia. You see, as a survivor myself, we are usually behind the scenes, silenced by the trauma we have been through. It took many years to break my silence. Sylvia is the voice for so many still locked in that silence.

Sylvia portrays the intellectual strength it takes to be heard and seen against this evil, dark world of human slavery on many levels. Sylvia is a model example that we survivors look up to, a woman who leads by example and who fearlessly continues to put it all on the line to save the lives of others Sylvia supports survivors and will do whatever it takes to get the job done!

A true humanitarian, Sylvia cares from the very bottom of her heart and soul. Her expertise is a blessing to so many she may never meet. That is why she is a hero to me, because she is a woman of courage that we can all stand behind and support in this fight.”

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