State of the Union Special Guest: Hawaii’s Kalei Grant

Sex trafficking survivor-advocate Kalei Grant of the Missing Child Center Hawaii will accompany U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono at the February 7, 2023, State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C.

Hawaii Senator Macie K. Horono, left, and Kalei Grant, right

By Denise Gee Peacock

Kalei Grant of the Missing Child Center Hawaii (MCCH) – a survivor of sex trafficking and advocate for missing, endangered, and exploited children – will be the guest of U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) at President Biden’s State of the Union Address this evening, February 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The nationwide address will air live at 9 p.m. ET. Click here to watch it online.

“As a native Hawaiian survivor of gender-based violence, Kalei is working to help combat the crisis of violence against native women and girls,” said Senator Hirono. “I admire and appreciate her commitment to raising awareness and supporting other survivors, and I’m honored to have her as my guest for the State of the Union Address. I’ll continue working with the Biden Administration, my colleagues in Congress, leaders in Hawaii, and advocates like Kalei, to advance justice for native Hawaiian women and girls.”

Kalei GrantGrant has worked since 2018 with the MCCH, under the leadership of state Attorney General Anne Lopez. She works to protect missing, endangered, and exploited children across Hawaii while promoting public awareness of the problem of human trafficking, especially for native women and girls.

The MCCH is a specialized criminal justice program in the Department of the Attorney General’s Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division and operates as the state’s missing-children clearinghouse and resource for law enforcement, social services, and families.

“Kalei has made it her life’s work to protect and advocate for other survivors of sex trafficking and gender-based violence in our state,” said Attorney General Lopez.

“I am proud and inspired by Kalei’s exemplary service to the people of Hawaii and as a proud native Hawaiian survivor leader on the national stage," Lopez said. "We fully support Senator Hirono’s granting this great honor for Kalei’s contributions, and for the Senator’s tireless efforts to ensure native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence have access to programs and resources through the Violence Against Women Act.”

“Native Hawaiian women and girls experience a disproportionate rate of gender-based violence, and alongside the Attorney General’s team, we are committed to providing the resources needed to end this deeply horrifying issue,” said Hawaii Governor Josh Green.

Grant has received the National Child Protection Award from the U.S. Department of Justice in recognition of her efforts in Operation Shine the Light – a cooperative effort between the MCCH; federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; and four nonprofit organizations.

Kalei Grant with Amanda Leonard-Missing Child Center HawaiiMCCH Coordinator Amanda Leonard says Grant is "a prominent survivor leader and advocate who works every day to combat human trafficking in Hawaii and beyond. Kalei is a symbol of hope and limitless potential.”

“She is a reminder to all of us in this field that we are making a real difference in the lives of victims and their loved ones."

Last month, Hirono participated in a roundtable discussion with Grant that followed passage of federal legislation, sponsored by Hirono, that allows native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence to access critical programs and resources provided by the Violence Against Women Act.

Sex trafficking in Hawaii info graph