Sylvia Yu Friedman is a film producer, an award-winning journalist, international speaker, and writer. She is the author of two books, Silenced No More: Voices of Comfort Women, the only journalistic account of historical Japanese military sex slavery during WWII, and Heart and Soul: The Life Story of Pastor Augustus Chao.
A current affairs documentary producer, former TV anchor, and advisor to philanthropists, Sylvia was among the Top 100 Human Trafficking & Slavery Influence Leaders List in 2017 by Assent Compliance. She won the prestigious 2013 International Human Rights Press Award for her three-part documentary series on human trafficking in China, Hong Kong, and Thailand.
After ten years of intensive research and interviewing elderly survivors, academics, lawyers and activists in different nations, Sylvia is considered a global expert on “comfort women” military sex slavery. She’s been interviewed or featured on the BBC, CNN, SCMP, the Globe and Mail, CGTN, among others, and covered widely in Asia and the Chinese media. Sylvia is a SheSource expert of the Women’s Media Center, founded by Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem, and is listed in a database of women experts who serve as a resource for journalists.
Sylvia believes her core calling is using her communication skills to mobilize people and resources to help those suffering in the most marginalized places. Since 2005 Sylvia has managed and directed millions of dollars to major humanitarian portfolios impacting at least more than one million people. This work has given her access to many influential networks in different countries.
Sylvia led a Hong Kong–based movement of “passionate compassion” against human trafficking that involved more than 120 churches, NGOs, and organizations and later expanded to other nations like Malaysia, China, Canada, South Africa, and the U.S. Through more than fifty-five slavery awareness events, her team reached more than 25,000 people in eighteen months in universities, schools, and major corporations like Goldman Sachs.
Sylvia is married to Matthew Friedman, a leading global expert on slavery, the CEO of The Mekong Club, and former United Nations director and U.S. diplomat. Together in the summer of 2016 they gave 113 presentations in 27 U.S. cities. She and Matthew are based in Hong Kong. Currently, Sylvia is writing, producing and directing film projects.
“I’ve been in many situations in China and Southeast Asia where there was a level of danger on the job. I’ve interviewed human traffickers– people who buy and sell people– I’ve been followed by undercover police, I’ve been surrounded by Burmese military with machine guns and lived to tell about it, I’ve walked across a river on a log to sneak into another country because that was the only route used by aid workers, I’ve been grabbed from behind by a strange man in Bangkok, I’ve sat in brothels interviewing scary pimps, I’ve traveled through Sichuan’s rubble days after the big earthquake, I’ve spoken with strung-out drug addicts with AIDS who had heroin needles sticking out from their arms as they eyed my diamond earrings and looked like they were going to rip them out. If my eyes glaze over when you’re talking about your bad hair day, now you know.” ~ Sylvia Yu Friedman
You see things and ask “Why?” But I dream things that never were, and I say, “Why not?”
-George Bernard Shaw
Sylvia is a supporter of The Mekong Club, a leading catalyst for change, inspiring and guiding the private sector to lead in the fight against modern slavery. Led by her husband Matt Friedman, an international human trafficking expert. See Matt’s TED talk here. (You can book Matt as a keynote speaker for your conference).
#Throwback post from my blog back in 2010:
Besides writing and producing media to raise awareness, one of my passions is to bring through my consulting work various stakeholders together — such as NGOs, government, academics, volunteers, business and philanthropists — to work towards a strategic plan or social change level goals for the transformation of a region or country.
I’ve fallen madly in love with southwest China which borders Myanmar. Some of my previous consulting projects that impact SW China and other parts of the country include:
*health and care project for elderly sex slave survivors (known as ‘comfort women’) in China
*freeing sex slaves (trafficked women, prostitutes) – jewelry making business is expanding to other regions
*helping drug addicts with HIV – hope to see one great model in Kunming replicated in other parts of the country
*empowering orphans and blind people so they can live with hope and dignity (I’ve helped direct funds to these projects)
In my spare time while living in Beijing, I helped support an organization that mobilized young people from the West to impact humanitarian work and the business sector in China. In the near future, this mobilization will begin to expand to other nations in the developing world.
Some of my earthly heroes and role models: Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and my parents, especially my beautiful mother who models love and authentic faith every day. She has for more than 30 years given home-made meals, financial support and a listening ear to the sick, the poor and those in distress. My mom and dad have helped many low-income families in their community.
Site Visit Story (my trip on behalf of a philanthropist):
(Ma passed away shortly after)