Breast Ironing - The Silent GBV in Cameroon and abroad

Catherine Djiemo
Posted December 11, 2021 from Sweden

Research and information on breast ironing is extremely limited but I got even extensively troubled  after  I first mentioned breast ironing during an interactive discussion at Dalarna University in Sweden a few moths back . “Breast ironing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, what is that?”,  many present both the lecturer and students had never heard of Breast Ironing before this lecture.

In light of this i realise ; while  scientific journals describe the existence and consequences of female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour killings, there is still little awareness and knowledge on the practice of breast ironing. This is a practice which is risking the dignity of young girls, violating  human rights perspective and affecting both the physical and mental health of many youngs girls and women .

Cameroon is one of many countries in West and central Africa that practice breast ironing to keep the girl child in school and prevent teenage pregnancies. Examples of other countries that practice breast ironing in West and Central Africa include Chad, Togo, and Kenya. It is estimated By UN that more than 3.8 million girls have been subjected to breast ironing with an estimated number of around 1.3 million victims in Cameroon (UN). Its also interesting to know that BI is a migrating practice as citizens of these nations that migrate into the western side of the globe, bring with them these practice and practice them within their new settings . Breast ironing have been reported in the UK, Germany just to name a few .

This  practice is commonly carried out by mothers, aunts, or sisters with the purpose of delaying the young girl’s breast development, based on the belief that they are protecting her from societal pressures that include early marriage , rape, teenage pregnancy and m.m . This may be seen as the only route for a girl child to get through school and gain an education, without the consequences of sexual harassment within the communities where BI is practiced  . Stagiling is the fact that the culture of breast ironing is encouraged by both victims and perpetrators, with estimated  50% of the practice being carried out by mothers,and the rest by  by grandmothers, sisters, aunts,  nannies, and  victims themselves.

The  cultural stigma and shame associated with rape and teenage pregnancy  have left many mothers with the choice of breast ironing their daughters but what is really creating the continuation of breast ironing is the lack of knowlegde on the consequences of this practice and lack of adequate education on alternative method of contraceptive. 

The decision to create  Catherine Djiemo Foundation in Cameroon a few years ago was based on meeting one teenage pregnant girl while visiting home. I saw myself in this girl ; I was in my early 20s when i got pregnant with my first child and then my walls came crambling. My culture rejected and still rejects  the idea of pregnancy before marriage . I needed help from those i loved but ............ it was very complicated . In that moment of encounter with this young lady , i was taken back to my 20s and I wanted to give back.This one girl was my point of contact , I was in her position years back and all i needed was someone to say "its OK " even in my fragile circumstance . Catherine Djiemo Foundation have SRHR as the central point of focus . Our goal is to educate , reinforce, quality improve and provide information  accessibility on SRHR while using the most cost -effective method .

To combate the problem  of Breats Ironing ,the Catherine Djiemo Fondation in Cameroon ,is opening its first Breast Ironing Information Center (BIIC) in the beging of  year 2022 . Our intension is to educate the public on breast ironing (BI) ,its consequences and interventions strategies to eliminate this practice. We are looking forward in collaborating with school,co-operating with other CSO  minicipalities and Parents teacher associations to inform the public on BI . We welcome all forms of partnership in sharing knowlegde with the goal of empowering a girl child .

Mvh 

Catherine Djiemo 

 

This story was submitted in response to Gender-Based Violence.

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