Meet the Match

A Creative Leader Brings Joy and Freedom to Brazilian Women

When Maíra Liguori was a girl, she would spend hours playing games with her friends in the streets of Atibaia, a rural town one hour from the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. It didn’t matter if it was volleyball, basketball, or just running around, she embraced the freedom of the outdoors with all of her heart.

As Maíra became older, however, she lost interest in sport. She moved back to the city to attend the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and began her professional career in communications. At the age of 27, she moved overseas to Barcelona, where she continued her education by earning master’s degrees in anthropology and business communications.

It was in Spain that Maíra regained her interest in physical activity by hopping on a bicycle for the first time in years.

“I had a lot of image and body issues and I missed being active,” Maíra says. “When I began cycling, it was very powerful. To feel the wind in my face, it brought me back to my childhood. I would laugh and people must’ve thought I was crazy. Cycling became a part of me and I couldn’t live without it.”

By 2009, Maíra returned to Brazil, where she worked in strategic planning and consulting for marketing agencies. In 2014, she became the innovation director at Think Olga, an NGO with a focus on women’s empowerment. After some time, Maíra presented the idea of integrating sport into the organization’s work. As a result, in 2016 Think Olga launched its own sports club with cycling, soccer, and surfing programs.

“Many girls don’t understand how powerful they are,” Maíra says. “This is what we want to show them through Think Olga and Olga Esporte Clube: that their perceptions of who they can be aren’t big enough. When you’re conscious of your own power it can push the agenda of change for women. I want to show women that sports can be a big part of their lives, not just a way to get fit or healthy. It can bring personal growth and autonomy.”

With Think Olga, Maíra is working on launching an online platform that works like a matching application so that girls and young women can get together to play sports. Using this digital tool, women who feel uncomfortable or unsafe exercising on their own or in public can meet and socialize while engaging in physical activity. As a long-time communications professional, she is also passionate about using social media and video to promote women’s empowerment campaigns in communities throughout Sao Paulo.

A committed and creative leader, Maíra wants Brazilian girls to feel strong and self-confident; to experience the beauty, freedom, and peace that she feels every time she gets on her bicycle. She believes that expanding and amplifying the reach of Think Olga and Olga Esporte Clube can help realize these goals.

The woman who helped Maíra with the marketing, project development, and implementation needs she had entering the program is none other than Julie Eddleman, who has been involved with the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program since its inception in 2012. As a global client partner with Google, Julie is one of the leading American women in the field of marketing and promotions, and has previously mentored three Brazilians as part of the GSMP—Cassia Damiani (2012), Daniela Castro (2013), and Paula Korsakas (2014). Together, Maíra and Julie continue to build on the legacy of empowerment started four years ago and bring it to new levels and new communities in Sao Paulo and beyond.

Mentor Match