2024 Women of the Year Awards: Rising stars – Winner Vedanshi Vala

Vedanshi Vala, co-founder of Bolt Safety Society, is a winner of the Rising stars category of the 2024 Women of the Year Awards


Vedanshi Vala
Co-founder and executive director, Bolt Safety Society

Vedanshi Vala felt helpless every time she heard a story about someone close to her suffering from domestic violence. She wanted to be able to support them, to at least point them in the right direction, but the available information was scattered all over the place.

In 2020, as a UBC student studying integrated sciences, Vala launched an online platform called Bolt Safety Society with four friends and her sister, Shreyanshi Vala. The idea was to centralize access to existing resources for survivors: the platform is a database of shelters, crisis lines, legal services and medical and mental health support, and it also includes educational material to help reduce stigmas around victim blaming.

Offline, Bolt formed partnerships to deliver programs that can help people in real time. Safe Hubs is a network of safe spaces spanning 40 locations and 16 cities in Canada, pinned to a digital map: “So this could be a grocery store owner that’s like, ‘If someone’s walking down the street and they think someone’s following them, they can duck into my store and I’ll give them [Bolt’s resource package],’” says Vala. And Safe Buddies, carried out by Bolt’s 40 volunteers, provides walking companions from events like UBC frat parties.

The youth-led nonprofit also hosts workshops: it has worked with communities in Toronto, Ottawa, Squamish, Pemberton and Whistler as well as Metro Vancouver, and led sessions for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in Kenya and India.

“A lot of people, when they try to take social impact work international, go in with a saviour complex. We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing that,” says Vala. “We work in partnerships specifically for that reason—we see the people on the ground as the experts on what to do and the approaches that work… So what remains? What do we need to push it forward now? That’s the work we’re doing.”