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    Women’s History Month:

    Breaking Barriers with Books 






    Culture Club

    Women’s History Month: Breaking Barriers with Books 

    Malsa Maaz, the first Maldivian woman to be named Barefoot Bookseller at Soneva Jani—a resort in the Maldives we book for many of our clients—talks about the role and the important ways the resort is supporting women. 








    Welcome to our Women’s History Month series, where we are spotlighting incredible women across various industries who are breaking barriers and working to create a more equitable world. 

    At Soneva Jani in the Maldives, Malsa Maaz serves as the resort’s Barefoot Bookseller, an initiative launched four years ago at sister resort Soneva Fushi, also in the Maldives. Appointed in 2022, Malsa is the first Maldivian woman in the position and now works at the well-curated on-site shop—and so much more.

    Here, she talks about the program, her background in the field, and the important—and inspiring—the role of women at the resort. 

    The Pool at Strawberry Moon, The Good Time Hotel

    F1S: Tell us a bit about the Barefoot Bookseller initiative.

    Malsa Maaz: The Soneva Jani book collection has been carefully curated by the U.K.-based Ultimate Library, tailored to underline Soneva’s values and sustainable ethos, celebrate the local culture, and reflect the diverse tastes of its sophisticated, cultured guests from across the world.

    We have an extensive collection of non-fiction, including wellness, relaxation, and mindful reading, as well as books on sustainability and eco-conscious living—all of which reflect Soneva’s barefoot luxury philosophy. There is also a wide collection of fictional books, including thought-provoking contemporary novels, much-loved classics, and children’s books for readers big and small.

    As the resort’s Barefoot Bookseller, the job role entails so much more than just selling books—and no day is ever the same. I run creative writing classes and shelf discovery sessions, offer private tutoring, make personally tailored reading recommendations for guests hailing from all around the world, and reading sessions with those looking for a digital detox and reconnect with nature. 

    I’m also planning to restart the Barefoot Book Club that was started by my predecessors. Together with the Barefoot Bookseller at [sister resort] Soneva Fushi, we will be documenting our journeys with weekly blog posts.

    "It’s a true honor to be the first Maldivian in this role. My advice to anyone looking to pursue a career like this is to always be different and come up with new, creative and innovative ideas. Be willing to learn from people: the more you engage with different people, the more you learn."
    Malsa Maaz

    F1S: How did you become involved—and what has the experience been like?

    Malsa Maaz: I grew up here in the Maldives, in Malé. After I finished school, I worked in the heritage industry as a Research Intern, which paved the way for university. For my Bachelor of Arts, I studied archaeology and anthropology and I have just finished my Master of Research in engaged anthropology at a university in Wales. My main focus was on the documentation of Maldivian cultural heritage and my fieldwork involved learning traditional arts and crafts such as fangi vinun (coconut thatch weaving), roanu veshun (coir rope weaving) and kasabu viyun (embroidery lace weaving) using traditional tools and techniques.

    After university, I worked on a project as a cultural anthropologist to help establish a private museum at a resort, researching the pre-Islamic history of the Maldives and Maldives-Chinese relationships to trace the porcelain trade.

    Breaking Barriers, inspiring women

    F1S: As a Maldivian, what has this meant to you—and how does it help support all women in the region? 

    Malsa Maaz: For me, working at Soneva Jani feels very liberating—it is indeed the place to make a difference. New ideas are readily accepted, giving everyone the chance to grow and thrive. I really like the ‘No News, No Shoes’ ethos here, which encourages people to disconnect, relax and reconnect with the ground beneath their feet. As the Barefoot Bookseller, I am always literally barefoot, and it makes me feel really connected to the natural environment.

    I also really like the fact that Soneva as a brand is about breaking barriers—there is a high percentage of women working here in so many different fields, from marine biology to boat crew. I am inspired by these women every day.

    Read the additional features in our Women’s History Month series, including an interview with F1S President and Co-Founder Erika Reategui and with Dr. Charlotte Jones-Burton, an F1S client who launched the groundbreaking nonprofit Women of Color in Pharma. 

    To learn more about any of the initiatives and organizations highlighted in this series, reach out to us at

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