Day 14: Gender Danger
Today we salute a campaign that is designed to eliminate a shocking and relatively hidden practice in Cameroon: breast ironing. It is the focus of a very passionate Cameroon activist and journalist named Chi Yvonne Leina. As the founder and coordinator of Gender Danger, a grassroots women`s organization, she is fighting to end a traditional practice that is still happening to over three million girls in West Africa.
According to a Survey by the United Nations Population Fund and German Development Cooperation, one in four girls in Cameroon have had their breasts brutally pressed or pounded with hot objects, usually by their mothers, to prevent them from developing early. The mutilation is a traditional practice designed to avoid unwanted male attention, pregnancy and rape, but delaying the signs that a girl is becoming a woman.
The UN has also called breast ironing one of five forgotten crimes against women . Not only is it painful but, it exposes girls to health problems including abscesses, cysts, infection, tissue damage, and even the disappearance of one or both breasts. In 2012, Leina wrote a story about the secretive practice of Breast Ironing for the global news network World Pulse and it attracted huge media attention from all over the world.
More than 20,000 women and girls have vowed to end the practice since she began her work. Leina believes the only way the practice will stop is if women talk to each other about it. She said: “We need the silence to be broken.”