In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight important female voices advocating for women’s health and wellbeing, who can speak to the importance of female empowerment and support. We had the amazing opportunity to interview our founder, Janeen Brown, about her motivation behind creating EmpowHERto, what breast cancer awareness month means for her, and what young women can do to stay proactive about their health.
What was the motivation behind founding the organization?
Growing up, I didn’t really have a female figure in my life that I could look up to and feel inspired. Though me and my mom are very close, she wasn’t really involved in the corporate world, which was where I wanted to be. But moving into the corporate ladder, women weren’t nice to me at all, and I had to learn everything from men. Even from a young age, I was very attentive to other people’s emotions and I came to realize that so many women weren’t supporting and working with one another because they never really had any strong female figure in their life either. So thinking about all of that, I knew that I needed to start an organization that’s going to help girls with the resources and skills that I didn’t have, so that they don’t have to endure the same struggles I went through.
Is there a special story behind how the name of EmpowHERto was created?
It’s really EmpowHER-to empower her. Empowering the girl to be who she wants to be. When we first started, I had this cool idea. I thought to create shirts that began with “Empowherto..”, and they would empower her to be a doctor or a lawyer, empower her to be the best. So that’s really what that is.
What does this month mean for you?
It’s interesting because when we first started, our first event actually was about breast cancer awareness. When I was in my early 20s, I asked my friends: “How much do you know about breast cancer?” And nobody knew anything. But in the world, one in three or four women are impacted by breast cancer. How do we not know anything about breast cancer? At the same time, my partner at the time’s mother actually was in remission from breast cancer. And then I was just like, what the heck? We need to educate ourselves more. That’s really where it came from.
Do you know anyone personally that has been affected by breast cancer?
I actually just recently lost an aunt to breast cancer. And my friend’s mom was in remission. It’s always the people that you least expect because women, especially minority women, work extra hard, so we don’t take care of our health. And there’s so many factors that sometimes it could be a little bump that we dismiss as nothing, but all of a sudden becomes full-fledged breast cancer.
How can teen girls stay proactive about breast cancer awareness, even after October?
There are a lot of ways to stay proactive about breast cancer. First is to get checked, at least quarterly, with a doctor. Working out and eating healthy are also good to do. It’s important to pay attention to what you are eating, and strive to make healthier choices. But it’s key to remember that it’s not about how you look or how your body looks. We live in such a superficial society, but it’s really about the interior. Everyone works so much, but often forgets to enjoy life. And if you want to enjoy life, you need to take care of your health.