EMPOWER Hosts ‘Little Stones’ Premiere

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“If you look around the world, the one thing that unites us is there is not a single culture, community, religion that can say: violence against women, domestic violence, trafficking does not exist. It exists everywhere,” begins the trailer for Sophia Kruz’s documentary Little Stones. Little Stones tells the story of four women who are working to empower other women across the globe through their own unique talents.

EMPOWER, Maryville University’s social justice group, partnered with the Zonta Club of Saint Louis to bring Sophia Kruz and her documentary to campus for its Missouri premiere Oct. 16.  “Our relationship with the Zonta Club began last year through a networking opportunity. Their mission, vision, and values aligned with EMPOWER‘s. We hope to become golden ‘Z’ members, as partners at the university level.” Dr. Stacy Donovan, faculty advisor for EMPOWER, said.

A question and answer session and panel discussion hosted by Kruz followed the screening, in which four area professionals discussed Saint Louis’s reputation for human trafficking and how officials are working to successfully end the trade. “It touched on many aspects of what Maryville is all about – standing up for injustices, active learning, and education… students also had the opportunity to network with individuals and organizations within the university.” Donovan said.

Sophia Kruz, Director of “Little Stones” with Panelists. Photo courtesy of Sarah Henkel.

A fashion designer, a graffiti artist, a dance teacher and a musician/activist are able to tell their stories through Kruz’s groundbreaking film. Each of the four women have a different mission: to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking recover, to save young girls from enduring the practice of female circumcision and even to provide women from impoverished countries a means of skillful employment.

When asked by an audience member how she chose women to interview for her film, Kruz replied, “I started to learn about so many women, and it was really, really hard to sort of choose, because in one feature film you have three, maybe four artists you can really talk about.” The film was officially released this year following critical acclaim at multiple 2017 film festivals, including the Zonta Film Festival, the Impact Doc Awards and the Female Eye Film Festival.

The evening was coupled with a fundraiser/auction, which raised money for three organizations that combat violence against women and human trafficking. The auction included items made by some of the women featured in the film, including clothing from the brand ‘Judith and James’. Created by Anna Taylor, an American fashion designer and entrepreneur, ‘Judith and James’ is both a nonprofit and for-profit company that employs women in Nairobi, Kenya and trains them how to make clothing and jewelry.

“I knew I wanted to do an economic empowerment story.” Kruz said. “I think economic empowerment touches on all the other gender and inequality issues because when you can’t support yourselves, you can’t support your kids, you are much more likely to be a victim of domestic violence, trafficking, labor exploitation, any sort of violence against women. If you can’t support yourselves or your kids, you’re much more vulnerable.”

To listen to a TED Talk given by Sophia Kruz, click here.

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