"Breast Ironing" a veracity in the Cameroonian society;my experience.
“My aunt and my mother pounded my chest every day when I was barely 10 years old. I cried ceaselessly and could not stop thinking of abandoning school and running away from home. Up till now I get flash backs about the ironing and my heart beats so fast every time this happens" Miranda Lum, a member of Bafut Women’s association in Bamenda Cameroon, recalls the distressing memory of undergoing 'breast ironing' to her fellow group members during a sensitization Campaign by Gender Danger, a women’s rights organization.
Breast ironing, is a traditional practice carried out in parts of Cameroon, and also in some regions of West and Central Africa, which involves massaging or pressing the breasts of adolescent girls in order to subdue and reverse their development. The practice, which commonly involves using heated objects- often spatulas, stones and pestles is performed often times by women in the belief that a plane, child-like chest will discourage unwanted male attention, rape and pre-martial pregnancy.
It was an amazing experience to spread the message to women about the practice of breast ironing and its disadvantages to women. From face view, it appeared as if breast ironing is a practice that is fading away in the Cameroonian society and mostly practiced in the rural areas. Surprising, during my encounter with this women’s group I discovered that breast ironing is still REAL and practiced in the Cameroonian society. Female teachers testified of having lots of victims as pupils in schools where they teach. Mothers confessed of ignorantly using breast ironing as a means of preserving the innocence of their children.
Beyond the pain and trauma caused by breast ironing, there are a serious number of physical and mental health implications: the most serious include an elevated cancer risk, the inability to produce breast-milk, and psychological problems. Miranda told her group members that she now suffers from insensitivity in her breasts, which is affecting her emotional and love live with her husband and questions whether her condition is related to breast ironing which she is a victim of.
Other women who had equally been subject to the practice asked sensitizers if breast ironing was responsible for their inability to produce enough milk while nursing their babies.
The Presenters from “Gender Danger” encouraged the empowerment of all women, by raising the necessity of teaching sex education. Their viewpoint behind sex education is that an educated woman will counsel their girl children about their sexuality, rather than subject them to such bodily mutilation. Today, many mothers in Cameroon still find it difficult to discuss openly with their daughters about sexuality. The women of the Bafut Women’s association in Cameroon were very impressed to have information on this topical issue which they experienced. Most of the women resolved to be very open with their children, to talk sexuality with them and sensitize other women on breast ironing and its associated disadvantage.
Gender Danger is making tireless efforts in reaching out to women in every nook and cranny in a bid to open discussions about this silent killer of women.