Young girls endure act of breast ironing
Holding her ear with her left hand and her waist with the right, she gave me a fierce warning, telling me if any man or boy touched me, from that day onwards, I would be pregnant and that will be the end of my education and the family would disown me. She gave me water to bathe and later brought a huge chunk of toilet tissue for me to put on my pants.
The next day she (mama) called me into the kitchen and examined my chest while shaking her head. She asked me to lie down on the floor while she used a hot stone to press my breasts which had just begun sprouting. She instructed me never to tell anyone about what she was doing.
The practice continued for over a year. Unfortunately for mama when I turned 12 my breasts defied her attempts to suppress their growth and developed, though the right one is visibly much smaller than the left and there are black marks all over the area from burns I incurred during the process."
According to statistics from United Nations Population Fund, Lindsay is one of the 3.8 million girls that face the danger of breast ironing in Cameroon, which means that one of every four girls in the country is a victim of breast ironing.
The damage this mutilation causes would not be justified even if the supposed benefits of the practice were real. Fertilized by a culture of silence, breast ironing has persisted into this age of scientific advancement, ironically, because many women have seen the benefits of educating their female children. As such, mothers are prepared to do anything to avoid a teenage pregnancy and early marriage that would end their daughters' education.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, the practice of breast ironing is more prevalent in the Christian and animist south of Cameroon, where 20-50% of pubescent girls are affected. In the North, roughly 10% of girls are affected. The practice is not only physically agonizing and detrimental to health, it has also proven to be futile in deterring teenage sexual activity.
Breast ironing can be a source of excruciating pains and violates a young girl’s physical integrity. A 25-year-old victim says she feels embarrassed each time she is naked amongst her peers because her breast tissues are worn out like those of an old woman.
“The (practice) is very much alive everywhere, yet no one talks about it because it is done behind closed doors and kept as a secret between mothers and daughters. Not even the fathers are usually aware of these acts,’’ she says.
Another victim of breast ironing, now an English teacher, says she grew up with a feeling of guilt about the sprouting of her breasts, which happened early on at ten years of age.
"Mum tried to make me feel loved, but it never worked because I found her too cruel for my liking each time she began warming the pestle and stone to press my breasts," the woman, who asked not to be identified, told me.