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uh thank you very much for joining this call uh i want the world to know who you are so i’d like you to introduce yourself in the way you love it who are you sure so my name is miriam montague and i am a social entrepreneur i live outside of marrakech in a little village and i’ve been living in morocco for nearly 20 years so it is my adopted country i am someone who is passionate about a particular cause and that is teen girls empowerment so i’m a proud feminist to give you a little bit more background about myself so my mom is from iran i was born in egypt i have a dad from new york so i’m one of those strange you know combinations of cultures and now i am i like to call myself an adopted moroccan so i’m here trying to really inspire myself and my community around this whole issue of teen girls empowerment because i feel like it’s so critical to so many problems that we face today so how did you come about this this passion of yours because i had the chance to come and visit you and see you in action so what’s the story behind it what’s the sparkle so i was raised by two feminist parents and my dad was a huge inspiration for me he was someone who was so profoundly convinced in the need for more gender equity and gender equality he raised my brother and i very equally and he told me that nothing should hold you back so he was working in humanitarian aid and i was very inspired by his work and wanted to do the same so i went and joined a non-profit organization where for many years i worked in issues related to human rights and women’s rights and then i joined a management consulting firm where i was a management consultant for for many years around humanitarian aid so i think in all of my work it kind of it became very clear to me that there was this lack of social justice for reasons that were hard for me to understand because you and i can have this conversation right and there’s no issue right you’re not going to be thinking oh you know this is not a conversation to be had because she’s a woman but yet society has so profoundly made this series of choices and the cultural norms are such that men and women aren’t treated equally and girls and boys aren’t treated equally and the impact is so negative and so harmful for society so i decided that this was my cause and this is what i really wanted to devote my work to so how did you start like because like a lot of people when they hear the word feminists and so on they tend to learn a lot of stuff so what how do you define it and what’s the what’s the rationale so i define it very simply just to give you a little bit of background about myself also so i am a woman who’s married to a very wonderful man and i’m also the proud mom of two beautiful children a boy and a girl um and so i would consider myself you know reasonably typical i think one of the reasons why people have a hard time with feminism is that they kind of attach it to a whole series of things that it’s not which is radicals that hate men that you know want to be better and in fact that’s all really um very misinformed it really just means that i want to be considered as an equal to a man and i want a man to be considered as an equal to me i want us to have the same rights and opportunities i don’t want us to be discriminated i don’t want to be discriminated against because i’m a woman i wouldn’t want my daughter to be discriminated against because she’s a girl so i just want us to have these same equal rights and opportunities and of course this is a vision that’s shared not just by me but by the united nations of which morocco is a proud member because gender equality is an essential human right so let’s move into concrete things and that’s like topics may be very broad but like so what do you do to make it happen what’s the project thought about and what’s the what’s where’s the meat

how does it go so what project soar is about is that we work in squads or girl packs of 20 girls and we create a safe space for girls to go on a leadership journey with us so we’re a leadership institute which means that we are empowering teen girls to be leaders and we believe that teen girls have every potential to be and that if we can put them in the right environment share some tools with them and co-create with them that they will step into their leadership potential this in turn will allow them to continue their education get better jobs and really become an asset to their communities so we have our own curriculum that we developed which is called project soar in a box it’s takes a girl through 35 workshops where she learns to really understand her own value to understand her voice to understand her body to embrace her rights and to really start plotting a course for her future so this is the transformative journey of the project store girl and she also during this process we’ll form with her friends who are in project store with her a girl leader club and in this grocer we have girl leader clubs all across morocco and also now some in uganda in this girl leader club the girl will step into her leadership you know both within her family within her community and the impact has been amazing i don’t know maybe i can share a screen with you that you can see first a little bit about who is this project sword girl what kind of girl is she and then maybe take a little peek at what the impact has been on sore girls around the country because it was going to be my question because what’s the what does it mean concretely like this kind of transformation and so on because i’ve had the chance to see it but our viewers need to feel a bit of that power absolutely so let me share with you i’m gonna do this is a cool okay so you have to disable participant screen sharing and i will share it with you okay sure let you see where to do that okay i think she’ll issue it should be working now okay let me try yes it worked very good so let me put this on the screen so let’s just look at who the project store girl is actually right so this is based on our group of girls in morocco so we are working with girls between the ages of 13 to 18 on average families with a few you know brothers and sisters generally living in an underserved part of you know the country so that means no fancy neighborhoods yes no private school kids um in fact on average the projects were girls living in poverty um the parents generally the dad is a day laborer or a farmer and the mom’s staying at home taking care of the kids so pretty humble background in terms of education you can see that the dads normally have a middle school education and the moms generally have a primary school education or less um and quite a number of moms and dads can’t read and reign so i would say that the project store girl is a girl who comes from modest beginnings and who has high hopes right and she’s surrounded in her sore squad with other girls like her sami also have high hopes so how do you shift all of this what’s the so what we do is we take this girl through this process we empower her through a series of workshops and let me show you how much it works so i’m going to show you some of our data excellent okay so we did a we um ran a survey a random survey across our squads you can see we did it in 28 different sites in morocco it involved about 733 girls and we’re looking at how does the project store girl do from this background how did she do compared to everyone else so you can see our first figure so ninety percent of project store girls pass the high school entry exam

right so that’s compared to less than 70 of all students and that’s all students across the country right that’s boys and girls that’s you know kids from much more privileged backgrounds but look at how much people think that products is like you provide them with i don’t know uh private tutoring in math or science is it the curricula or is it something bigger than it no it’s bigger than that that’s what’s exciting about it so this is empowerment it’s when you feel like you value yourself when you believe you can speak up when you believe you deserve to be at the table when you understand that your rights include your right to an education and your right to equality when you are working actively on what you want your future to look like it’s like a magic light switch right and all of a sudden your motivation to succeed becomes so much higher and you have a whole squad of girls around you who also feel that way and who are supporting you so how do parents how do the parents deal with that do they feel threatened what’s the what’s the psyche and the so first one thing that’s very important about about project soar is that we’re a miners organization right all of our girls are under the age of 18 so that means that nobody shows up at project store without being having permission from their parents this is very important because you know we work it’s like a team with parents right it’s a team with families it’s an investment we want parents who want to invest in their girls and we want their okay we are not this is not some kind of secretive underground feminist revolution this is us working with families and valuing girls so how does it work it’s how do you give us an example itself a family what’s the how does the the the the the that reacts what’s the because this we have this foreign woman coming to want to revolutionize all of our ladies what’s the i’m putting this way because that’s what sure but i have to say that i’m just a little little piece of this right we have a network of over 80 moroccan women empowerment facilities they all come from their own communities we have a staff of 10 project you know our our project store team is made up of fantastic and amazing moroccan women right so i’m just one little piece of this puzzle so when families come in and they are not certainly not seeing me um i’m in the background and they are meeting with their empowerment facilitators at their local site their understanding about project soar and what’s the amazing thing is once project soar comes to a community girls do so much better that parents are our best recruiters right so it’s parents talking to neighbors saying hey so how was how was how was with patient one or patient zero what made the first family to come i don’t know like they go back back in time yeah so i can remember that so well because um i was waiting at the gate that day so it took a while first we went to the the mukadum and we explained the idea and he said i don’t know you know i’m going to think about this and then we didn’t hear from him we went back and he said you know what let me talk to the community and he talked to the community and they said you know this seems like it would be a good thing something nice for our girls and so i remember and so this whole process of community input and the feedback loop you know that took a period of months it took me a year really to get it going so a year i think this is one thing with uh being a social entrepreneur is that you have to believe in your solution about resolving the problem yeah you didn’t say that much it’s like okay crap i’m just gonna go and do something else you see you really absolutely and in fact when i started project sore as a concept everybody said to me miriam this will never work you know it’s a great idea but you know don’t waste your time this just can’t work in the moroccan context and i said you know what i’m going to try and i’m going to keep trying and i think so many solutions never come to this

world because people just simply don’t have the perseverance so so when you spoke about so so it took like a year to get the the took a year to get going i piloted it in my own home with the community right i had all kinds of moroccan volunteers helping out i had many girls coming from the community then one community started talking to the next community and i started to not be able to manage it at my house so that’s how it grew that’s why i set up the headquarters we hired a professional staff then we piloted it in five other locations then 12 other locations and gradually we grew and so now it is a wave across the country of families partnering with project soar really investing in their teen girls and i haven’t showed you the rest of the results i want to show them to you because i think they speak for themselves so let me show you these look at this we’re coming up on our baccalaureate this summer you can see that 95 percent of project store girls pass the baccalaureate wow compared to 54 percent of girls nationwide right 75 higher than the national average for girls over 94 of projects or girls go on to higher education versus 51 of girls nationwide right and then look at this exciting figure around child marriage so even though of course it’s against the law and underserved communities it’s still happening it’s common yeah um you know where we live in the neighboring communities many many girls are still getting married under the age of 18 and what we can see is that the projects girl almost never gets married under age she knows that her education is important and she doesn’t want to curtail it by getting married you know when she’s a teenager like there is time for marriage we are like myself i’m a very happily married woman and a very proud mom but 15 16 17 it’s just not the right time and that’s why in fact the law has put this in place that you should be of age to get married did you give me any type of resistance from parents uh uh who wanted to marry off their daughters and they like the doctors were like no i don’t want to do that what’s the i’ll say what’s the what’s in the lines what’s the i would say the uh the dark side well one of the you know module two at project source voice and so that’s where the girl understands that life can either happen to her she can be quiet and life can happen to her or she can develop her message and speak up because very often girls just don’t feel like they have a choice but parents are reasonable so when a girl can negotiate with her family and say hey i want to get married just not right now you know why don’t i finish my education i would love to be able to help the family out and earn an income at a job that really values my skills and so this is a a kind of dance between the girl and her family and families are actually really reasonable you know these families are smart they get it and so if we can have an intelligent conversation together so many doors will open up not just for the girl but for her family too you know the girl’s a sense of pride for her conversations are happening like by the girls themselves yes they are happening by the girl remember project store walks shoulder to shoulder with girls we do not talk down to girls we do not want girls to look up to us we co-create with girls the girls are the motor themselves remember project soar’s mission is empowering teen girls to be the leaders of today and tomorrow being the leader of today means you start by being the leader in your own life so how many girls have you served so far so over 2 000 girls 2 000 and my goal and my objective along with all of my colleagues in all of the amazing women’s empowerment facilitators is to have every teen girl in morocco be a project sore girl and how wonderful would it be for morocco just think about the impact on the economy all of these girls who are educators and journalists and government employees and doctors and lawyers and scientists we have so many girls who love math and science we’re right in the middle of a pandemic

yeah what a perfect way to bring a whole new generation of scientists we’ll go to the pandemic in a second i want to go back to the to the project store in a box uh because i remember you have a toolkit right yes we do stupid and the curriculum and some equipment as well because you really want to take environment at the maximum what is it about like can you describe us a little bit sure so project soar in a box is our scaling up toolkit so that means when you start as a social entrepreneur right you’re not just looking for to solve a problem in one tiny space one location you’re looking to solve a much wider problem to address to provide your solution and projects are in a box is our solution for scaling that means that we can very quickly and nimbly move anywhere so the woman’s empowerment facilitator she gets everything she needs in a box it’s actually a bag what we call a project store in a box she has all of the curriculum she has all of the materials the sports supplies the art supplies all the registration forms the manuals it’s all packed very neatly into a toolkit she also has period supplies for girls and this is something that’s so important because underserved girls very often drop out of school because they don’t have something to manage their periods so she’s got that also in the box so you can imagine this box it’s portable it’s on wheels it can go anywhere we’ve taken it to uganda you know where girls are you projects or girls there you know our plan right now i’m talking to a donor about taking project sword to four other african countries we’re looking at a dot adapting projects for for refugee communities for idp communities so the scaling up framework of project soar is very important and it’s i think it’s important like i can say this to you social entrepreneur to social entrepreneur right which is when you develop your solution be developing it to scale from day one think big because it’s very hard to retrofit your solution afterwards so you mentioned some of the equipments in the bags uh yes do you how is it produced what is it how um do you supply them when it’s when it’s when it’s turned out or what’s the what’s the model behind it sure well one thing that’s really important to know about project store is even though they get this this toolkit project store is much less about stuff than it is about what’s up here and that’s really important because we can’t make the source solution so expensive that it can’t be scaled right and so what we do is we provide the curriculum in year one and some essential supplies and then in year two we continue to top up the period supplies and just a few other things so we call that when you’re in your refresh year you get just a refresh of what you need um but ultimately you know our goal is real systems change for girls that means partnering with the government so here we’re very lucky to partner with the what was formerly the ministry of youth in sports and now is a combined ministry and for our expansion we are looking specifically at ministries of education in uganda where we have projects for project stores all in schools and that’s a great place for projects for to be because you’re already in an environment of learning people are very used to clubs we have the girl leader club and it provides like a virtual you know a virtuous cycle for project soar one thing do you so did you go to talk to them or did they reach out to you what was the yes so i mean we had to be bold we went and reached out you know right to the ministry of youth and sports and the secretary general was this amazing woman who got it instantly i mean she was a woman who herself had been raised by feminist parents who you know here she is now the you know multiple degrees the secretary general of the ministry and she said you know if i could only have every girl exactly have those opportunities so she understood and we are very lucky to get a memorandum of understanding and to get funding from the moroccan government which we are hoping that will not be touched by the pandemic you know this is a a real challenge under the pandemic that a lot of resources are flowing

to the pandemic whereas remembering that the pandemic is a moment in time right it’s a period in time investing in teen girls is the investment in 40 to 50 years so we have to make sure that we maintain all of these important programs including the kinds that you run and kinds like project soar so how is so to end up a conversation so how has been product so affected by the pandemic are you able to run the workshops do you what’s the what’s the resilience plan and then we can end up with the future we’re looking forward to going forward sure absolutely well we were very lucky that um we partnered with isco which gave us some emergency relief funds to get girls internet so this is another thing with underserved girls like internet is a luxury for a lot of people you know you can see you remember the profile of the projects or girl right there’s not a lot of extra cash there to pay for internet and i think that this is you know critical is that the girl have access to internet so she can continue to access her education now that we know that schools are not going back we are moving all of our squads entirely online so we’ve already created with isco learning groups across the country our facilitators are activated and interacting with girls and so now this is the silver lining i think in project four is now we’re actually piloting our model online and you can imagine if this works this is an incredible solution for reaching so many girls and so i have to say this is one good thing that’s really come out of the pandemic is this is this potential and so you’ll have to check back in with me to see how it works and i think what will happen i think is that we’ll have we’ll have a multiple model you know we’ll have in person project store we’ll have in places perhaps that are conflict zones we’ll have a virtual project soar we’ll have girls being able to take classes online when we can’t get enough a big enough squad because there’s not enough girls in school in a very tiny community you can join them together so it’s it’s very exciting for us to think about well the future is going to be physical physical and so it’s always been blended so so how do you foresee the future you said uh earlier that you wanted to get it to every every girl what’s the as as you were saying being bold and dreaming so what’s your plan i don’t know to reach a million girls uh so my plan is to really partner with governments across the region and specifically with ministries of education ministries of youth right to really understand the project store investment has profound outcomes for the work that they do i mean i’ve already showed you the educational outcomes are amazing right so um that is my plan i will not stop i am you know with colleagues who are equally passionate we are we’ve already crossed borders right i mentioned that we’re in uganda now i think we have a donor who’s very excited to perhaps accompany us to a number of other countries and i think hopefully if you check back with me in five years you’re going to see us much more of a global organization but always proud to have been created in morocco we were built in morocco our curriculum is in arabic and you know we’ve had morocco is the wind at our backs you know so you mentioned investments how much does it cost actually to change a girl’s life let’s say a cost per head i know it’s always a tricky number but like what’s that because uh hopefully some some decision makers or others would see this video uh and they said oh that’s something interesting because it’s much cheaper to use products or methodology than oh what’s happening out there yeah well i mean i think that it depends on um the scale so the more projects or the less expensive that it is i would say that it’s between a hundred to two hundred dollars a girl yeah for the for the whole curriculum right for the whole curriculum yeah yeah good well and that’s a you know i think that that’s uh that’s a very reasonable investment it’s it’s it’s a very cheap i can tell it’s very cheap and of course with scale you can reach more explosive externalities and it creates more more absolutely absolutely so i think that um you know i think that also part like right now we’re paying taxes on

everything yeah i know right so you know just that well if we can eliminate that that’s already a huge help well that’s more social entrepreneurs uh uh uh to advocate because when you talk with decision makers about this whole idea of taxes and so on they will say but there are not enough of you you’re you’re just you’re saying you you don’t have the capacity to justify that we need these tax breaks underneath the sex incentives but why bringing or bringing all together and showing that actually what we’re doing is actually making you making earn more money not just paying money absolutely i mean you can imagine all of these girls entering into the economy making doing building like what an amazing impact that’s going to have on the economy of morocco so this is a great and you saw those figures of girls getting into higher education going into you know higher professional vocational training i mean this is a great investment you know it costs much more to try to pull a woman out yeah negotiate with her husband than it does to put a teen girl on the right path that’s much cheaper hopefully it’s better when we are being able to travel again we’ll be able to come and visit you and so on so thank you for that for an amazing conversation if you have one last let’s say one advice for young social entrepreneurs and one advice for uh an individual who’s seeking meaning in their life what would you uh what would you advise them to yeah well i think for social entrepreneurs here’s the thing you’ve got to believe in your vision trust yourself if you believe you can make it you will make it so i just think there’s so many great inventors out there you know who together we can really change the face of things so i’d love to see a much better enabling environment for social entrepreneurs for us to talk to each other i know that’s so much of your work admon and how we met so that’s fantastic um and i think that in general you know all of us were are put on this you know on this planet for a very short period of time our personal business motto is be good make good do good and i believe i’m willing to share that motto with everyone let’s all gather together and do that well maryam thank you very much it’s very inspiring and refreshing and god bless with everything you’ve been doing and it’s amazing and i believe that as you’re saying if all of us and more of us are in this together we’re going to be much and much much more stronger and as i said earlier i hope that very soon we’ll be able to travel back again uh and come and see in ritual girls because i’ve met some of them uh and i still remember my meeting with one of the girls who went to high school i forget her name but i still remember her very very much and how up until now i believe that what you’re doing is something that should be and must be shared with the rest of the world uh thank you again and and i wish you a lot of resilience uh uh for these challenging times ahead because as you were saying uh funding will be tough donors will be tough programs will be tough but again uh it’s also an opportunity for us to rethink and and find new ways new ways in new ways well thank you very much and thanks so much adnan it was great seeing you yeah take care and see you soon very much thank you okay bye you

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