Using My Cups for Social Change

Nicole Joseph-Chin
Posted July 22, 2016
Ms. Brafit in Argentina with Vital Voices Peers
Ms. Brafit CEO - Nicole Joseph-Chin hosts a dialogue with Vital Voices VVLead Peers in Argentina 2015. With Peers from Swaziland, Kenya, Colombia, Argentina, Nicaragua and Malaysia.
Ms. Brafit visit to Baobab Batik
Ms. Brafit visit to Baobab Batik : Ms. Brafit CEO with host - Signhild Thorne of for Breast-Care workshop with Baobab Batik staff and for a tour of the Women Owned Social Enterprise in Swaziland. (1/1)

In many of life's challenges, we find triumph and it is out of necessity, that there comes innovation and creativity.

In these times of body-shaming, gender stereotyping, discrimination, violence against women, human/sex trafficking, sexual slaveryandsexual abuse, I have theprivilege of using my breasts as the inspiration and catalysts for social good and I love it!

It all began in 2002, when I had been challenged with the comfort ofthe upper region of my body and it was time to fix it for good! But not just for good, for Social Good!

It was time to make some changes to my perception of myself and especially to the daily act of getting dressed.It was time to become a leader of a different kind and to take on the responsibility ofpositively and lovingly influencing my comfort, self confidenceand the way I felt aboutfirst layer of clothing. It was also time to invite other women on the journey of comfort and confidence and to enable girls and women to appreciate their bodies and to be educated about it in a caring manner. How does a bra do all this?

With an expert! A Thought-Leader and thatThought-Leader was to be me!

Being a small framed girl with large breasts in the Caribbean, has many faces.

First there is the culture of "fondly" calling people names that one seldom takes offencewith, but which subliminally is offensive. There is also the challenge of being the one that gets left out, because it seems you are just too grown up to play with the tiny ones and too youngto mingle with the older ones, so identity and displacement becomes your lot.

It also brought on the stares of many and if that did not help, the description was also lacking in compliment. Anyone not knowing your name, could reference you with a plethora of identities including "girl with the big breasts from up the street, the one who livesin the blue house"

For me and for my family,it was always a huge challenge to get me into a comfortable bra withoutmy trying on at least ten, and before becoming frustrated and ending up with the ugliest one in the most mundane colours.After all,bras for me only come in threetones - black, beige orwhite.

So many a day, I just had to settle anddisplay immense gratitude for even having one that could fit, cover and support me.

This led me to many days of planning and puttingtogether a structure for aSocial Enterprise that could allow me to engage other women and girls who had the similar fate.

Albeit, women who had major situations and brastruggles after mastectomy surgery or girls who had other challenges with their breasts, must have been in complete despairbehindclosed bras and under their layers of clothing.

Our mission was to make the bra become the girl's breast's friend! Especially as our breasts are so close to our hearts.

Our mission was to engage in an open discussion about comfort in diverse settings and to get the message out there. One pair of breasts at a time......especially the messages about loving them and taking good care of them.

Especially about empowering women in treatment and recovery after a mastectomy and girls who felt self-conscious and disempowered.

I knew what that felt like! But it did not become my fate!

In 2002, Ms. Brafitwas born "on paper" and as a part-time enterprise. In 2004, I converted thetiny guest bedroom of my humblehome, into a Fitting Studio, giving wayto a Social Enterprise that would allow women, girls and their families, the discreet access toan assortmentof comfortable bras for their every need.

Especially for ensuring that women, girls and communitiescould also haveopen access to education, information andthe undivided attention of an Expert and Thought-Leader in All Things Breast!

In 2006 it became my full-time job.

Knowing all about breasts is amazing and takes away from the notion that all things about breasts should be taboo.

It is very insightful toshare the joys ofmy job and how I have been able to break barriers ina taboo subject area which forms a huge and significant component in women's health and especially reproductive health and oncological health.

The words breast, boobs, boobies all get a very shy look when mentioned in public and I love the challenge of saying it and seeing the reaction on unsuspecting faces.

Breasts are a lifeline. They are the first source of food for the newborn, they are the warm mounds of tissue that become entangled in any hug or becomeengaged in a warmembraceand they are also the visible physical differentiator of gender and physical form. Why therefore should they be taboo? Culturally it can be explained and this is where my job has been a great way of encountering amazing people and insights.

The journey as a Thought-Leader in all things breasts and as the Chief Innovator at Ms. Brafit,has been humbling, inspiring and has literally taken me on a journey into many different worlds.

In 2009, when it was evident that as busy professional women and especially women whowerein treatment; were challenged with a comprehensive record keeping system for their general medical records, we designed and developed the Treatment Companion.

A comprehensive and easy-to-pack medical journal, that could fit in any hand-bag and that was to be the best companion and travel-mate forthe womanwho needed to keep all her medical records in one place and at easy reach for herself and her family.

This was produced with the kind sponsorship of Guardian Life of the Caribbean and Guardian Group and was launched in 2010 at their Head Offices in Post of Spain, Trinidad.

A launch attended by the former First Lady of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and key members of the Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society, Civil Society, clients, family and friends.

In 2006, our local telephone company TSTTinvited Ms. Brafit to be the face of the SME for their campaign surrounding services for small and medium enterprises in telephone and internet technologies.

Because of my breasts, Ms. Brafit became a household name.

In 2011, we had theopportunity of being awarded an IVLP by the US State Department. This amazing program took me tofour cities in the United States, foranexperience in Leadership as Womenin Entrepreneurship,with Female Entrepreneurs from19 countries.

Further in 2012, Ms. Brafit convened in Dominican Republic at the Pathways to Prosperity Summit where we had a Caribbean delegationof Female Entrepreneurs sponsored by theUS Sate Department, thatgave each of us,the opportunity to meet the then US Secretary of State and now Presidential Candidate - Hillary Clinton and to be addressed by her at a special gathering.

Theopportunitiesthat my breasts afforded me since the beginning of the Ms. Brafitjourney, has far outweighed the perception of what a woman who bares her breasts in public, can expect and this is what makes it very humbling and empowersthe continued innovation and design ofnew components to our exciting business model.

In 2013, as the CEO of Ms. Brafit, I had the opportunity of being awardee of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Mentoring Program and it was a phenomenal experience of meeting with mentors and mentees from around the world, who were all connected by a dedicated online platform. I further took the advantage of meeting my Austrian Mentor in person and getting to have an insight into the journey as a professional in Leadershipat CISCO.

In 2014,Ms. Brafittook the time to enhance our already very comprehensive education program which comprises a series of seminars for diverse settings. We also took the time to equip our retail store with an evenmorediverse range of bras and solutions for women with all needs.

All under the Comfort Matters Seminar Series brand,Ms.Brafit seminars are dedicated to "The Princess In Me", "Beauty Beyond the Bruises" and "From the Board Room to the Ballroom", in order to empower women and girls with diverse needs and in diverse stages and settings. We also createdthe Two Cups of Care Foundations Program in 2012, which empowers women and girls and encourages community spirit and economic empowerment via the Pink Slip Project and the Beading Exchange Nicaragua y Trinidad collaborations with UP Nicaragua in 2015.

In 2014, we innovated the Drawing Awareness Interactive Breast-CareWorkshop whichwe had the opportunity to share with peers of VVLead in Argentina in 2015 during our P2P Exchange.

But our journey of passion, mission and comfort did not stop there. After all, the only difference between women is our geography. The language of breast-matters is universal. So we were further empowered to share our message in other languages and to collaborate with partners who needed to have our services but were burdened with cultural or geographic challenges to connect. We therefore used Skype as a way of sharing our services with women who needed to have access to our professional knowledge and skills.

Fast-forward to 2015 and our amazing journey as part of the VVLead Fellowship and as Vital Voices participants in the mission of Global Leadership and Social Change. This journey connected Ms. Brafit with 330 women who shared the mission and passion to make a difference in the world, in their villages and in their personal spaces via their many interests, projects and programs.

It was this transformational pathway that lead Ms. Brafit to become more involved in diverse discussions on women's health, reproductive health, violenceagainst women andgirlsand especially to influence discussions on collaborative actions that could advance and amplify social change in a more focused way, in various communities.

Between the mentorship, the collaboration, the learning and the personal interaction with peers, this part of the journey set the pace for a global mission. Our commonalities of breasts regardless of the size, shape and situation, has brought us togetheron purpose!

We have been able to lead and share in empowering girls and women in more than just breast-care and bras.

Speaking engagements have led us to deliver academic research papers at the Oklahoma State University in 2013, to speak at health conferences and health fairs, to speak at leadership events, to participate in Caribbean and global events and especially to share our expert knowledge and supportdiverse professionals and communities globally. In 2015 we had the opportunity of a series of speaking engagements in Swaziland with Baobab Batik, Gone Rural, Swaziland Cancer Network and a host of other local organizations all on the invitation of Baobab Batik and VVLead Fellow Signhild Thorne.

Because of our experience and the many opportunities we have had to be mentored and schooled in diverse leadership methods, we have been able to give back and to provide our diverse expertise in guiding and facilitating workshops in Entrepreneurship.

In2014 as the CEO of Ms. Brafit, I had theprivilege of leading the first MOOC for the US Embassy of Port of Spain, Trinidad andto engage and support emerging and existing local entrepreneurs via the online classes offered by universities around the world, with one on one internal discussions and focus groups to bring the online learning to life. This wassupportedby staff members of the US Embassy Political Affairs and Cultural Affairs Department collectively.

In 2014 and 2015, wefacilitated the module on Innovative Thinkingat the CARIRI Bootcamp and had the opportunity of sharing the models of innovation and leadershipincorporated inour brand and business.

In 2015 the Immigration Outreach Services Centre in Baltimore hosted Ms. Brafit as part of the annual Savor the World event and we had the honour of sharing the Ms. Brafit story at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland.

Our catalysts for Social Change and Empowerment has allowed us to bravely invite the open discussion on breasts in various cultures and settings and to invite our male counterparts and peers to contribute to perspectives and to share in the vibrant dialogues on empowerment and women's health.

As the Innovator and Founder of a Social Enterprise focused on breasts, it is the most uplifting event of a girl's life, when her breasts can do something positive and empowering, not only for her, but for the entire world! A movement thatwas born bythe power of the breasts as a catalyst for social change!Ms. Brafit to the World! From the Caribbean to South America, North America, to South Africa, Swaziland to Grenada!

Comments 2

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Tamarack Verrall
Aug 29, 2018
Aug 29, 2018

Hello Nicole,

A recent story by you has sent me back to find out more about you and your work. I love this story about how you have made thinking about, taking good care of and loving our breasts easier for so many women. It has never made sense to me that we have been taught to be embarrassed about our breasts, too small, too big, too floppy, post surgery, and how shocking if a nipple shows! Congratulations on your work and your awards. This story really made me smile.

Nicole Joseph-Chin
Aug 30, 2018
Aug 30, 2018

Dear Tam,
This warms my heart immensely. Thank you for your kind commendations. It comes from a place of courage and particularly to restore that of so many who remain consumed by guilt, shame, taboo and stigma.
Thank you!