Strong Women. Better World.

Brazil’s Double-Punch with Diana Bonar Currie & Maira Liguori

March 15, 2021 University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace & Society in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy Division Season 1 Episode 2
Strong Women. Better World.
Brazil’s Double-Punch with Diana Bonar Currie & Maira Liguori
Show Notes Transcript

Travel to Brazil in this episode of the Strong Women. Better World podcast to hear how Diana Bonar Currie (Training and Institutional Development Coordinator, Fight for Peace; Founder, Peace Flow) and Maira Liguori (Innovation Director, Think Olga; Founder, Olga Esporte Clube) find the inner strength to balance their home life with pursuing their passion to change the world through sport.

Carole (00:05): Hello, I am your host and ref Carole Ponchon from Lyon, France, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the ring as two fearless women spar about their trailblazing journeys in sport. On today’s episode, we travel to Brazil to hear from two strong women who share a passion for social entrepreneurship and doing good through sport. We are live from the ring and in the right corner is Diana Bonar Curry. Diana is a certified conflict resolution trainer and has been working for Fight for Peace for six years as training and institutional development coordinator. In 2017 she created her own organization, Peace Flow. She definitely has stamina and the will to enter an arena to make this world a better place. Welcome Di.   

Diana (00:51): Hi, here's Diana! I'm very, very happy to be here. 

Carole (00:56): And we are joined in the left corner by another inspiring Brazilian woman. Maira Liguori. Maira is since 2014 the innovation director at Think Olga, an NGO with a focus on women’s empowerment. Maira has been the brain and heart of the NGO to create in 2016 its own sport club,  Olga Esporte Clube. A committed and creative leader, Maira wants Brazilian girls to feel strong and self-confident. And she’s ready to sweat for it. 

Maíra (01:28): Hello, hello! I am Maíra. I do love women out and loud and I am unstoppable fighter. 

Carole (01:34): Ladies, I’m so impatient and I cannot wait to hear your stories. So the floor is yours, please get us to Brazil.

Diana (01:44): So Maíra, you are a source of inspiration for me, and you also became a good friend and you inspire me not only in work, but also in life generally. So, I'm very, very happy to have the opportunity to interview you because you, you're awesome. You're a great woman, a great worker, um, you know, I wish everyone could know someone like you. So, the first question I'm going to ask you to get people to know a little bit better who you are is, if you were an animal, which animal would you be and why? 

Maíra (02:45): That's a good question. If I were an animal, I guess I would be a lioness. I feel like a lioness because I am generous, protective, but I'm also a great, great fighter.

Diana (03:00): Yes, I think both of us, we have Leo as the star sign, so I think I would be a lioness myself, as well. So we’re together on that one. And if you had to recommend us a book, a great book, which one would it be? 

Maíra (03:15): I recently read this very short and amazing book called, Ideas to Postpone the End of the World. The author is Ailton Krenak. He is an indigenous guy from Brazil, and he discusses this in a very simple and objective way to show how the way we live in our disconnection with nature, with each other, with our human side, how this is causing pain and how this is the, the main reason for inequality, not only gender inequality, but in society in general. So, I strongly recommend this book. This is amazing, and this makes like your mind blow and understand things more, the system, more, the matrix more broadly, you know. 

Diana (04:07): Oh, wow. That's amazing. I want to read that book and also being written by an indigenous guy, which is not very common, I would say. And it's talking about nature, which we need to focus on nature and the environment, like really, really bad. Otherwise we won't have a planet to try to save the relationships that we have here. So, thank you very much. That's, that's a great indication. Maira, you had a mentor at the GSMP program.

Carole (4:18): Ladies, sorry to interrupt, this is the ref speaking. And I feel like I must raise a yellow card. You've just mentioned the GSMP and I bet we need to provide some context to our audience. So the GSMP stands for the Global Sports Mentoring Program. It's a sport diplomacy, women's empowerment initiative, sponsored by the U S department of state and implemented by the one and only team at the university of Tennessee Center for Sport Peace and Society. And actually the three of us are alumni of this program.

Diana (04:57): You had a mentor at the GSMP program, Julie Edelman. And, she's a big director at Google, and, she's a, master in marketing and promotions. We would like to know what have you learned with her? And what do you use in your day to day life? 

Maíra (04:49): I believe that me and Julie, we were a match made in heaven because we have really strong points in common. Our profession, so I'm also a marketing profession, professional, so we had a strong and intense exchange in this area. But I also had a very, a great human connection with her. We became great friends. I enjoyed being with her all the time and we had great conversation. We had fun, so I just loved it. But all, I believe that her main contribution for me in my life, in my activism and everything was the management skills. She kept me very, very busy those days I spent in Cincinnati and that was really intense. And I had to be really organized and focused and all the management of the work, the ideas, the outputs, I had to be very, very skilled on it and I was not, so I had to develop with her this part, so it was really, really, really, really great. And I would also highlight the connections. She introduced me to her community and I just loved it. She's very present in the LGBT community in Cincinnati. I was very lucky to be introduced to some amazing people and very committed people with the cause, the LGBT cause. So my experience with her was very challenging because I had to develop new skills and that was the whole point of being there and it was intense, but I really loved it. It was amazing. 

Diana (06:47): Um, by hearing you, I remember how intense the GSMP program is. And I remember not having time for anything else apart from actually working. I was mentored by Romina Bongiovanni in Los Angeles, and I had to work a lot. And I also learned a lot by that experience and I'm very grateful for GSMP. Now I want to ask a question that’s very, very important, very challenging, and I think it demands a lot of strength from us women in a society that doesn't really respect women and maternity. So both of us, we are moms and we have our own business. So, how is it for you to be a mom, to take care of two boys, small boys, and also take care of two organizations that you have Think Eva, Think Olga and also try to think of yourself. How do you balance all of that? How is it to be you as a woman?

Maíra (07:42): It's not easy. And it means tons of self-sacrifice. As you said, where am I in the middle of this whole scenario with the two kids, the two organizations. So, it's not easy, and I challenge everyone that is hearing us to think about this situation, being a mother and also being an entrepreneur and also being an activist, how can we change structures? So we don't have to deal with it in an individual situation, with individual response to this. I'm tired of saying that I am tired. So I, I won't bring the whole answer because the answer is not in myself. It's a bigger question, and it's a collective question.

Diana (08:34): What do you think? What can we, as women, as a group, what could we do to try to challenge this structure? What could we do to be heard, to be considered in this role with taking care of kids, being a mom, but also be an executive, and also try to take care of ourselves?

Maíra (08:53): I think that showing how hard it is to take care of people, to take care of businesses. So, I think this is one thing, just to show that the glasses won't be cleaned by themselves, the clothes won't go to the washer alone, they won't. So this, and also organizing, discussing, and proposing public policies. As I said, this is something that is structural, so we need to respond to this collectively.

Diana (09:31): And I think the work you do, as yourself and also as an organization, is to raise the awareness in women so they understand that it's okay when it's too chaotic, it's okay to ask for help. And it's okay not to be enough, you're not enough to take care of everything by yourself. And we need to talk about that. We need to talk about lots of companies, to our husbands to our kids, to families. So I think the work you do to raise this awareness in women, so they are vulnerable and also brave enough to talk about this, to change this structure. It’s very, very important, so thank you very much for investing your time, your energy and your life to all of us, because it’s a benefit of all the women. 

Carole (10:18): That's end of round one and we are moving to round two, with Maíra interviewing Diana. 

Maíra (10:26): Di, I love to hear you talking about me because this is exactly the way I feel about you. You were a great inspiration for me. You're really strong and smart and intelligent, and being your friend after GSMP and beyond is really a privilege for me. The work that you're doing with Peace Flow is outstanding, and I can't wait for us to do something together. I'm, I'm really glad that life and GSMP brought us together. I have the icebreaker questions for you, too. The first is, what influential woman in history would you like to spend the day with?

Diana (11:10): I think I would like to spend a day with Frida Kahlo, if it was possible. I think she's artistic, so she thinks outside the box, she's a feminist, she was, she's dead already, but I think it could have been very fun to spend a day with her. I think she would have taken me in my, mentally taken me to places that maybe I haven't ever thought about. She was very revolutionary and very different from the society that she was placed in. And she was very brave to break rules, to break boundaries and to be very strong, to be who she was and to express the art the way she did. So Frida Kahlo would be one.

Maíra (11:50): I love her as well. I love her very much. So, now tell me Di, you create your, your own organization after GSMP. Could you share some of your experience being an entrepreneur in these times, do you have some advice or some stories to tell us about this? 

Diana (12:11): What I usually hear from people is like, how do you manage to do all what you do? How do you just like, concretize or make your dreams tangible? And for me, it is the opposite, I ask people, why don't you, like, why don't you just have an idea and you push it to the ground and make it true. So I think for a characteristic of people who is entrepreneurs like both of us, we have this, this power to actually tangiblize what we believe in. And I think this is what pushes me forward because I have an idea and I talk to people and I don't wait. Maybe I'm a bit impulsive, I would say I have an idea, I go there, I talk to...oh my God, so I keep throwing seeds, all the ideas I have, I throw the seeds. Some will become beautiful trees, some will become a small flower, some will just won't happen anything, but I've tried, and I keep trying. And I think all the experience that I have through Fight for Peace, the work in communities affected by crime and violence, gave me a very clear sense of inequality, injustice, structural violence. So, through Peace Flow, I also bring all that and raise awareness and whatever organization or people that I'm training, I bring this because it’s not only about interpersonal issues it’s about, as you said before, it’s the structure. So I use nonviolent communication and question the narratives and many other techniques I have learned through the field work and also by books and experience to try to bring this, um, rationale to people.

Maíra (13:45): Yeah. Great, great. In your daily basis, as an, as an entrepreneur, how do you manage the fun part, I mean, the joy and the passion and the challenge tasks you have to, to deal with in your work?

Diana (14:01): I think the work I do is my passion. So the work for me doesn't seem like work because I really like what I do. And I do have a small team of people that's like four people, three that helps me with more bureaucratic issues, so I think having support to take and to grow is very important. The challenge, as you said, is being a mom. I don't know if that's the next question. 

Maíra (14:26): That was my next question. Exactly. 

Diana (14:29): At the beginning of 2019 was, was when Peace Flow, we start to flourish more and it was when my baby girl was born. And I was very anxious because I was thinking, “Oh my God, I just had a baby born and then my, my company's growing, and then how am I going to take care of these two things that are sort of two babies, and how am I going to do that?” And I remember that my first training, she was four months, and I said, “Well, I'm not going to not breastfeed her. That's not negotiable.” So to all companies that hired me, I said, “I have a baby and she needs to breastfeed during the training, so is it okay for you if she needs to breastfeed?” I put an agreement, you know, like ground-rules at the beginning of the training was “Maya” moment. Maya is the name of my daughter. And, all of them agreed to it. The companies in the contract and also the people in the room. I said, “I have a baby, this is Maya, um, whenever she needs to breastfeed, I'm going to leave the room and I will come back a few minutes later.” And that was what happened, but one thing is theory, and another thing is practice. So what happened is that Maya didn't want to leave me, so I have to come back to the classroom with baby Maya in my arms, and she was breastfeeding in front of people while I was teaching. And then she slept in my arms and I still teach anyway. So I think that demands some kind of strength and I was, like really tired because I couldn't sleep at night either, so it required me a lot of inner strength to be able to balance both, so I wouldn't let Peace Flow or Maya down. And then, of course, having a support like a dad who was present, he was there with me in all trainings, he was there to support Maya, as well. But it's very, it's very tiring and it's very difficult to manage the mom's life. I remember the first time that I cried from exhaustion was when Maya was born and I had to work. And I thought, “Oh my God.” I felt very sorry for moms who were single, who didn't have the daddy close to them to help, or didn't have a support system, and then I found myself very lucky and privileged. 

Maíra (16:47): Yeah, that happened the same with me. My first kid, when he was born, my company was like two months old and I found myself exactly in this place that you were describing. I can relate totally to what you're saying. 

Carole (17:01): That's the end of round two! We are now moving to round three with the ladies discussing about empowerment.

Maíra (17:08): Okay, I'm afraid we are running out of time, Di but let's have a lightning round before our buzzer sounds. What's your definition of empowerment? 

Diana (17:20): I think empowerment for me is how I felt in the GSMP program. I remember being among women, and all the women was seeing the potential of each other. It’s not only about me, myself, understanding how important I am, and seeing the changes I can do in my life, and to the life of others, but having other women like, say, like “Maíra, you are amazing. You can do this, go forward. If everything goes wrong, we are here.” So having this support system in place, it gives you this strength and the confidence to keep going. And for you, what does empowerment mean for you? 

Maíra (17:59): I think empowerment is too big, but I have four concepts that GSMP brought to my life and GSMP helped me with these four words. And I would say it would be, encouragement, that would be endorsement, so, okay, go ahead, this is good enough for you to keep this idea in your mind, to give me confidence that I was able to do the things I was dreaming to do and validation, that's the great path, that's a good idea, let's do that. So, I think these four words for me means empowerment and meant what GSMP also brought to my life. 

Diana (18:45): Yeah, I completely agree with you. That's exactly what I meant. 

Maíra (18:51): So, it was such a joy to share these few minutes with you. I wish you could stay longer. Thanks for the audience for tuning into this episode of the Sister to Sister Podcast Series. We hope you've enjoyed and feel inspired by our stories. Feel free to share your questions and comments on social media. Uh, and remember, you can listen to more episodes where sisters unpack their aspects of GSMP and the potential of sports to change the world on your favorite podcasting platform.