Breast Ironings And It's Impacts

Breast ironing is a traditional practice that many Cameroonians do not talk about and nobody wants to work on it but it is secretly taking place. According to a recent study conducted in Cameroon it involves massaging or pressing the breasts of adolescent girls in order to suppress and reverse their development. The rationale is to prevent girls from developing breasts between 11 and 15 years old in the belief that a flat childlike chest will discourage unwanted male attention, rape and premarital pregnancy. Breast ironing is a well-kept secret between the young girl and her mother. Often the father remains completely unaware. The girl believes that what her mother is doing is for her own good and she keeps silent. This silence perpetuates the phenomenon and all of its consequences. Breast ‘ironing’ involves massaging the growing breasts of young girls in order to disappear the breasts, usually by using a stone, a hammer or a spatula that has been heated over coals. Breast ironing is terribly painful and violates a young girl’s physical integrity. Breast ironing exposes girls to numerous health problems such as cancer, abscesses, itching, and discharge of milk, infection, dissymmetry of the breasts, cysts, breast infections, severe fever, tissue damage and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts. This painful form of mutilation could not only have negative health consequences for the girls, but often proves futile when it comes to deterring teenage sexual activity. Saying that breasts are destroyed is an understatement. Adolescents are traumatised, mutilated. This is a serious damage not only on their physical integrity, but also on their social and psychological well-being. And we must stop it.

Our Work In Uk

In the area of sensitisation, training and development, we have built a skills in training for local health authorities, education, social services and in child protection interventions. We were instrumental in the establishment of the first breast ironing campaign for girls and women in the Cameroonian community.

Through a range of methods and media including broadcast, we have raised awareness among hundreds of Cameroonians in UK and in Cameroon. We proactively engages with Cameroonian communities who are also involved in all aspects of the organisation’s work as trustees, members, volunteers, sponsors.

CAWOGIDO prides itself on its ability to develop and deliver innovative programmes and activities to address a ‘hidden cultural crime’ breast ironing from Cameroon that nobody talks about. Cawogido’s ethos is to work in partnership with a range of public Cameroonian, community and voluntary sector organisations to achieve its mission and strategic aims/objectives.

In the past month we have been commissioned by members to provide training for volunteers to help them to tackle breast ironing in a more culturally sensitive manner

Our Consultation Process

CAWOGIDO had consulted a number of Cameroon women and girls and Cameroonian organisations and collaborates with all the key organisations working on violence among women in London, to discuss the issue of breast ironing among Cameroon communities and all have said it is cultural violence. See list of Cameroon Organisation in London and UK.