Maryam Montague

Founder and Executive Director, Project Soar


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What has inspired you most this past year?


I founded and run a teen girls’ rights organisation called Project Soar (www.projectsoar.org) and am endlessly inspired by the girls themselves. We recently launched a new program working with internally displaced teen girls in different locations in North West Syria. Our 25 workshop empowerment curriculum and all the supplies needed to implement our program are neatly packed into a bag on wheels, which we refer to Project Soar in a Box – bringing empowerment to girls, no matter where they are.



What are you most excited about for the future?


I am excited to continue to try to make a difference and feel so fortunate to be able to work with a very talented and committed team of women who believe in our mission. Here are the words of Lin, one of our Syrian Coordinators.



"Project Soar in a Box is more than just a project. At least for me, it reaches beyond expectations, giving the girls a voice to be heard, a mindset to believe in themselves and raise their self-esteem in a place where hope and opportunity are minimal. It allows the girls to challenge perspectives within the community and stand up against negative social norms. I believe this program is an eye-opener. It reaches not only the girls, but the facilitators, the implementation team, the families, and all who have been involved in it. Everyone who has been part of the Project Soar in a Box program as an adult wishes they participated in it when they were younger. Our life choices would be different just because of the program."



What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing women today?


Women and girls face many challenges. 130 million girls are out of school and every year there are 12 million new girl brides. Complications through pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for teen girls. When you invest in a teen girl, you invest in the woman that she will become – a future lawyer, journalist, scientist, business owner, etc. Wasting her potential is such a terrible loss to society and to the world.



Why is it important to support and champion women?


Because women are magic.



What ideas inspire you?


I am really interested in neuroscience and maximising the potential of our own brains. I use the Neorhthym OmniPEMF™ Official Site | NeoRhythm PEMF Wearable Device daily, a neurostimulation headband that helps me to focus, meditate, and sleep. Project Soar is also built on neuroscience hacks, helping teen girls build new and better neural pathways when it comes to embracing their own potential.



Is it important to celebrate cultures outside of our own?  why?


The world is endlessly fascinating to me. There is so much to see and learn. My favourite book is Jimmy Nelson’s Before they pass away, which showcases indigenous cultures around the world. In the face of globalisation, they have managed to hang on to their distinctive lifestyles and traditions, and the world is so much more beautiful for it.



What do you love or remember most about Morocco?


I am passionate about Moroccan design: the striking architecture, the inky colours, the complex patterns. I even wrote a book called Marrakesh by Design, out with American publisher, Artisan Books.




Have your shopping habits over the last year?


Spending so much time at home this past year has changed my shopping habits. I live at Peacock Pavilions, the home and hotel that I built with my husband in an olive grove on the outskirts of Marrakech. Every evening you can find me gardening with a favourite purchase : the ARS pruners and many different kinds of heritage seeds.



If we adopt one new rule about shopping better, what would it be?


Because of my interest in Moroccan culture, I’ve been invited to attend the Moussem of TanTan in Southwest Morocco, which is one of the world’s largest gatherings of nomads. I find nomadic culture to be very modern in its outlook. A central rule for shopping is to ensure that everything you buy is both useful and beautiful. A great rule for us all.




Do you have any mantras or quotes you live by?


"One good deed is worth more than 1000 good intentions"

This guiding principle is so important to me that I even had it written on one of the walls at my home, Peacock Pavilions.



Who was your role model growing up?


American feminist icon, Gloria Steinem. She spoke at my high school and changed the course of my life. I told my parents that when I grew up, I wanted to be “just like Gloria.” I have been lucky enough to spend time with her in real life. She even produced a video on Project Soar: PROJECT SOAR_US (vimeo.com)





Who is your style icon now?


I don’t have a particular style icon. But married to an architect, I find myself particularly inspired by architecture. Right now I am fascinated by Iraqi reed houses or mudhifs, as well as the extraordinary mud architecture of Mali.




Which Mish Mish product have you got your eye on?


I love the beautiful gold Choice charm necklace. It’s one of my greatest hopes for every teen girl: that she is able to choose her future. What a thoughtful reminder to wear around your neck.