Nelly Bassily | November 18, 2013
Breast ironing is a cultural practice prevalent in Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Togo, Benin, Guinea, and other countries. As detailed in this week’s story from Cameroon, it involves the massaging and pounding of young girls’ breasts at puberty with hot objects such as sticks, pestles and plantain peelings. The object is to stop the breasts from growing in order to limit sexual advances from men.
Most young girls say that breast ironing is painful and causes a lot of psychological stress. Victims are left with marks, wrinkles and black spots on their breasts. In addition, young men in rural areas may refuse to marry women who have been subjected to breast ironing.
Today, many NGOs are raising awareness about the effects of breast ironing, and arguing that breast ironing is a social injustice and punishable under law. But those who carry out this cultural practice say they do not intend to inflict pain on their victims.
Breast ironing may not be practiced in your listening area. However, there may be other practices, including traditional practices, which have a negative impact on women’s and girl’s health. You might want to interview girls and women who have experienced these practices, as well as those who are involved with or defend the practices. A phone-in program after the interviews is one way to help raise awareness of these issues in your community. You could also interview medical practitioners, traditional practitioners and legal people, and talk about educational actions which can be taken to reduce harmful practices.