Monday, June 20, 2016

Hug Currency

Nicole Joseph is the founder of Ms Brafit - an initiative that deals with breast care, education, retail services and consultancy. Supporting everything from medicine to fashion, Nicole’s work traverses a massive spectrum of needs and provides solutions to them. Here’s her story in her own words.

I am a fan of the outdoors and the ocean. I also love good food and love spicy food. I am a huge fan of anything that says home-made because that means it is an old family tradition or recipe and I love meeting people.

I am the last of 6 children and grew up in a small suburb in Trinidad and Tobago, going to school in the community where I lived and enjoying the days of growing up with elder siblings, loads of cousins, aunties, the extended family and a neighborhood that was very caring. It was like the adage of the village raising the child - a close knit and caring community.

I continue to wear many hats but my work seems to always revolve around being a leader and a teacher, whilst it truly also has social impact at the core. For example, after graduating from my alma mater – St. Georges College, I found the need to return and teach voluntarily, just my give back to the place that molded and shaped me alongside my family and other communities. The best thing that could have happened to me as a young woman growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, was the co-educational college experience.

Learning from a very early time, how to harmoniously dwell amongst the opposite gender yet not be sexually or emotionally engaged and to be able to negotiate, broker and disagree but respectfully. That was amazing….so anyway, yes then my career segued into banking and in that area, I found the “teacher” in me being aroused very frequently.  And so did the organization, as I was assigned to conduct/facilitate many leadership training programs for new trainees for intake at the bank after every formal training module that was run by the technology centre – ROYTEC, which is now a division of the local university. I moved up the ranks in banking and enjoyed my 15 year career immensely, especially when I had to create programs or develop product packages for our clients. I spent many years in Business Development, Private Banking and VIP Banking. All very specialized areas where we build relationships and managed client’s needs!

Then during my tenure, I felt the need to serve differently and to offer a more specialized and focused service to women and to help develop the self esteem and confidence of women and girls, but more than that.  I felt that I need to offer women solutions that would bring about more informed actions for their health, lifestyle, well-being and family/community sense. I have always been passionate about people and serving people.

Let me share something about the genesis of the name “Brafit” for my company. Brathwaite or Braithwaite is a very popular Caribbean name and it is pronounced “Brafit”. So, I took some poetic license and used a household name to become a household brand akin to women of the Caribbean and by extension the world! We are a BRA FITTING company and we deal with breast care, education, retail services and consultancy.

We have done lots of research over the years within our work environment and we have developed a strong collection of very viable protocols for breast health beyond the clinical aspect. We support medical needs, fashion needs and educational needs. We have developed programming and created systems for wider conversations on breast health beyond the clinical needs of women. We have innovated in areas of breast health research that focuses on women and girls to engage conversations about confidence, about comfort in the workplace, about comfort during exercise about changes that the body may be subject to at many stages of the life of a woman.
But, Ms. Brafit came about somewhere in my childhood to be the next path of my adult service, because at age 9, I was already blessed with a fair share of breast tissue which made me an early candidate for using a full-fledged adult sized bra. So my parents and my dear Godmother, found the need to ensure that I always had a good and secure foundation and this was absolutely the catalyst to my comfort and my confidence growing up.

I cannot imagine my life any other way, but to have always worn a good fitting and comfortable bra….thanks to these women in my life who always ensured that I had great bras!

From my Godmother in the US to my auntie in the UK, I was always “fortified” with a good hold and loads of back support… today I can be assured that my good posture was part of the love and attention that was brought to me and so I found this was a good focus for my enterprise, whilst ensuring that we engaged in a strong educational, community and social advocacy component to empower women. I am fully educated in my area of work and have been certified in diverse areas that all sum up the needs for girls and women with healthy breasts no matter what her situation, age or stage of life.

Breasts are the first form of nourishment for the newborn baby once there is no mother to child viral transmission. They also define gender and most of all, they are the catalysts for many global discussions from “free the nipple” campaigns to “breastfeeding in the workplace” debates to “plastic surgery mishaps” to reality television shows, to malpractice lawsuits and even down to transsexual surgery. Breasts are a global topic that stretches beyond economics, beyond gender and way beyond even the old civilizations. Look at ancient art and sculptures, read mythology, and then watch an awards show, with all the red carpet models. What do we see? Boobies! Everywhere!

But then, we also have to delve into the psychology of breasts, who dictates what is the perfect pair, the perfect size, the perfect mound and who names them??? Boobies, boobs, knockers and all the rest! We are often forced to dislike our bodies by the way the breasts are glorified. We forget the importance of a self-breast examination but would pay tons for a push up bra. We would wear tight shoes but complain that breast screening (if necessary for some) is not comfortable! So the debates are extensive but girls are also forced into sexual dysfunction because they do not accept their bodies and their breasts. Women are objectified by the size of their breasts. It is a very long conversation

The education and advocacy programming that Ms. Brafit have developed engages discussion for girls and women in diverse settings (corporate, health, fashion, developing teens, maternity) understanding that there are diverse needs for each woman and she must take full responsibility for her comfort and her self-care, where it is possible, professionals like Ms Brafit has engineered professional solutions for women and girls and to support the medical and clinical communities.
Our policy development allows women to understand they can and should engage discussion for post-surgical care needs and to educate women on solutions-oriented ways of addressing medical and clinical needs – our reach with this needs to expand, but it has already been very effective.

Our Treatment Companion Medical Journal was designed for women to take full charge of their health care way beyond a diagnosis and to keep a comprehensive medical personalized medical records system that would allow her to make health decisions with confidence, understanding that she has all her personal details as a fully accessible personal catalogue designed just for her needs.

We are still doing huge research and development and we continue to add value to women’s lifestyle as a key component of our Social Enterprise

I believe in hugs. It is the only currency that has a similar exchange rate: You Give ONE You Get ONE!