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CAMEROON: Music Breaks the Silence About Breast Ironing

Q&A with Chi Yvonne Leina

How a song is aiding the fight against a harmful practice that affects four million girls in Cameroon.

"The best way to get youths’ attention is through music, through art, through song, through dance."

Girls in Cameroon speak out against breast ironing. Photo courtesy of Gender Danger.

“Teach the girl child how to use her mind, not destroy her body.” This isn’t just an empowering message for girls; it’s also a lyric of a catchy song by Cameroonian artist Raminas King. The song is part of a campaign by Gender Danger to end breast ironing, a widespread practice in Cameroon where mothers iron their daughters’ breasts with hot stones and other kitchen utensils in an attempt to delay puberty and halt their daughters’ physical development.

Listen now

"Stop Breast Ironing" by Raminas King. Click above to play.

According to statistics from the German Society for International Cooperation, one out of every four girls in Cameroon has been affected by breast ironing. Gender Danger founder Chi Yvonne Leina is hopeful that these numbers have actually been decreasing in recent years due to her organization’s efforts. Gender Danger’s community outreach has already resulted in over 20,000 women pledging to resist the practice.

Leina, who herself stood up to her grandmother’s attempts to iron her breasts as a young girl, knows how powerful youth voices can be. World Pulse spoke with Leina to learn more about how Gender Danger is using music to empower girls in Cameroon and protect them from harm.

Can you begin by explaining breast ironing and why it is happening in Cameroon?

Mothers iron their daughters’ breasts to prevent the girls from early marriage, early pregnancy and rape. Unfortunately breast ironing is not a solution because it causes more problems than it can prevent. The process is very painful. Mothers use stones or tools heated over the fire to press, pound, and massage the breasts of these young girls. There are many dangerous physical and psychological side effects. Sadly, many girls who have endured this practice stop loving their own bodies.

Why did you decide to incorporate music into the campaign?

Breast ironing is a silent danger in Cameroon. If you are not a victim, you don’t know about it because it is not spoken about in public spaces. This song is an opportunity to change that.

This song is saying education yes, mutilation no. Give the African girl child her pride. The music entertains and at the same time informs and educates.

We use music in our campaign because we are targeting youth. And the best way to get youths’ attention is through music, through art, through song, through dance. If you listen to the song, it has components of African melody and rap.

It’s also a way of making the girls understand that they can speak out about the issue. This shouldn’t be a taboo topic. We want girls to be able to talk about breast ironing with their peers, to discuss solutions and how to avoid it. We are breaking the silence in a very loud way with music!

What do you hope a young girl in Cameroon will feel as she listens to this song?

If I am a 14-year-old girl listening to the song, first I am going to know that I am from an important component of society that someone could be singing about a young girl like me. And then, if I am a potential victim, I will know that anyone violating my body is wrong and needs to stop. And if I am already a victim of breast ironing, I won’t feel embarrassed to talk about it. I will work to stop it from happening to others. . . .

Comments

kariz's picture

Inspire Change

As we approach this years edition of the international day of the Woman, the theme Inspire change is worth reflecting on. Music is indeed a very powerful weapon in the hands of the right persons. With its ability to cut through to the soul and stick to the mind, music with messages like Leina's will inspire change in the minds and hearts of many to the issue of breast ironing,genital mutilation,early marriage,rape,child abuse etc in Cameroon and elsewhere!
Let's inspire change in every girl,woman,government,organisation as we celebrate this year!

Charis-Shalom
LK

This song is such an inspiring way to work for change. What I don't understand is, even if mothers want to prevent their young daughters from being married off early or being sexually harassed, etc, doesn't this practice hurt their changes of marrying when they are of an appropriate age. It seems counterproductive.

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

This is BEAUTIFUL

Kim & Leina and Raminas and all those involved in this particular project and in writing about it,

I am SO moved by the lyrics and the music and the magnificent photo of the divine girl holding up her sign to claim her voice!

What a deeply engaging way to spread the word about the atrocities of breast ironing. These precious girls and young women are the future and the thought of depriving them of not only their self-esteem but also their very spirits and souls is heartbreaking.

May you make significant progress with this particular endeavor and carry with you my loving support, respect and admiration from afar.

With Profound Appreciation,

Sarah

Keating's picture

MIRACLES

Thank you so much for sharing this story!!

Miracles are happening little bit by little bit. The more steps taken forward, the better in the long run.

An amazing SONG with great power for Humanity.

With Love

Robby

samswork's picture

Amazing

This is amazing. The beauty of the process is no one is making them listen, they are listening themselves. But I just had to ask this, now that almost everyone knows about breast ironing, isn't there any enforced law prohibiting women doing this? If not, I think it will be too hard to end this dangerous practice.

Life is good. Its up to you to make it better.

Dear Sis,

How wonderful of you to have incorporated music into your campaign. The song is loaded with information. Kudos to Raminas King. Thanks for raising even more awareness on this issue.

With love,
Precious

My pen speaks

trucker1's picture

breast ironing

We humans never tire of finding creative ways to assult our women, this story is horrible, but i thank you for having the courage to take on this task. Music is such a powerful tool. What support do you need for this process, many of us in the world would like to help you, Terri USA

African Culture is complex, While Girls breasts are ironed in Cameron Islamic women and men go trough comparable pain and some Mozambican Women Prolong their genital organ - not because they are obliged to do it but because they believe on the theory behind the action.Therefor it is important to implement e mechanism to change peoples mentalities but we must not destroy or erase the values of African culture. Most of African women do not go through all those barbaric traditions. We must remember that there are some elder people behind those actions. They do it because they think that they are doing the right thing. I had a Friend in Zambezia, who got married to a revolutionary leader. She was only 2-3 years older than me. Few month after her marriage we sow her getting loosing her weight. I heard about the reason. She told me that was going to be in the remote areas where her husband was born only to make the prolongation of genital organs because her husband was torturing her for not knowing about the importance of not having done that. To my surprise I was told that she is still married and happy married with the same husband for over 35 years.

The breast thing is what it is and there is nothing we can do about it. Forbid that is also dangerous for Democracy. The answers o why Women go through those kind of operation should be found on man. It is mans fall. By man I mean human being. In 2013 summer I Interviewed a Medical Doctor from Copenhagen University Ris Hospital. He quit his Job because. He was in another department than breast, but did not want to work there anymore. He said it no longer about health it is only about about money. In the Hospitals of Copenhagen.

Some times I wonder what is going on on the head of the women who go to a doctor, lay down in a bed and ask the medical Doctor to start operation and go through pain infection and much much more only to change nature. Some women say they do it because they want to find a good husband. Others say they do it to look beautiful. A friend of mine ones wake up with 3 breasts because one suddenly was divide in 2. She needed a total amount of 9000 US Dollars to travel to Brasil or Thailand only to repair the breasts. She did not have the money. Some of the Women who go through breast operation must do it every 9-10 years unless she is fat enough to take fat from other pars of her body and place that in the breasts.

In Denmark there are advertisement of naked women showing their breast on public transportation, Schools everywhere. Ones a experienced a little baby less than 3 years old pointing at the advertisement and saying, see see, breasts. P believe that baby did not know many words but he new those were breasts of a women being showed to everyone everywhere.

I think it is strange that men today can make small operation and stop getting women pregnant. Bu nobody place adds of naked man showing exactly the parts doctors work on the way the women body is being showed.

Ilda Maria

UWA/ United women of Africa. SADAC - Mozambique

nkunene's picture

Speechless.........

If this is what it takes to be me an African Girl. People younger than me or the same age as me facing these circumstances, I'm very sorry for them this is beyond our control for sure. Our elders please solve problems with solution nor with problems again.

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