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Richmond non-profit screens documentary trailer at UN women's conference

Bolt Safety Society is working on a documentary about sexual and domestic violence.
Richmond resident Verdanshi Vala at the documentary trailer screening in New York's United Nations headquarters.

A Richmond-based non-profit has released the trailer for a documentary to raise awareness about sexual violence and domestic abuse globally.

Members of Bolt Safety Society, a Richmond-based non-profit working to end violence against women, spearheaded a multi-continental research and documentary project that investigated the realities of sexual violence in Canada and in other parts of the world such as Kenya and India.

Verdanshi Vala, founder of Bolt, said it's great knowing they finally have a physical and visual film to share their work and to bring awareness to the issue in a better way.

Sexual violence and domestic abuse occur worldwide, she said. And it doesn't happen in only one place in the world nor to just one group of people.

"It's a big misperception around sexual violence that it only affects a certain demographic, but it can happen to anyone."

When Vala founded Bolt, the non-profit wanted to promote a culture of consent and inclusion. Since then, they've developed a digital platform to provide resources to end violence against women and increase their safety.

Now, they are hoping to raise awareness through the voices of survivors and organizations that are helping women get through sexual violence and abuse.

"When we look at numbers, I think we tend to get desensitized to how big in scope the issue actually is," said Vala.

"It's just reminding people that this is a very real issue. It's making people realize the gravity of the situation at an individual level as opposed to just the statistics and numbers on it."

Vala and her team were invited to the 68th Commission on the Status of Women, which is one of the largest and most high-profile meetings on women's rights globally, held every year at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

At the meeting, Vala presented the documentary trailer to showcase the non-profit's work.

"We live in a digital age and an age where film, media and any visual medium really is so powerful to pick up stories."

The documentary making has taken them to rural B.C. communities as well as Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, Ontario, Toronto and Ottawa.

Furthermore, the Richmond resident and her team went last year on a humanitarian mission to Kenya, which inspired them to create the documentary.

“I think storytelling is so powerful and hearing it from (local people in Kenya) first-hand - what they’re going through, what they’re working on and how the world can support them,” said Vala.

During her trip to Kenya from mid-August to early September, the goal was to understand what organizations are already doing to help those who have experienced sexual violence and domestic abuse and find ways to add to their work while documenting the process.

“We don’t want to go in with a saviour complex because it’s so misguided to do that,” she said.

“Our objective was really just to work in partnership with the people that are already doing such amazing work and see how we can help elevate it and take it further.”

When asked when the documentary will be available for the public, Vala said they are hoping to submit their work to international film festivals first.

The documentary, she added, was filmed mainly on their phones so they are looking for festivals that are accepting low-budget productions or student-created films.

"We've never really done a project like this before so we are definitely learning on the fly," said Vala.

BOLT Safety Society continues to look for support from the community to bring their production to the finish line, and has launched a public fundraising campaign here.

-with News files 

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