Fighting “Breast Ironing” in Cameroon

Josiane Kouagheu wrote a passionated blog post [fr] against breast ironing [fr] practice in Cameroon:

Je n’ai jamais voulu parler de ce sujet trop sensible. Il me touche. Dans tous les sens, j’ai trop de victimes autour de moi. J’ai voulu me taire. Mais, que faire quand autour de toi, la télé, Internet, les magazines et autres qui vantent la beauté féminine, n’ont aucune influence chez certaines personnes qui continuent de se dire : « Les seins de ma fille ne doivent pas pousser très vite ! Il faut tout faire pour les masser..”

Leurs instruments

Une pierre, des épluchures de bananes plantain et les feuilles d’un arbre « ngwollne » (je le prononce en ma langue maternelle) passées sur un feu à bois. Et les serre-seins aussi !

Dès que tout est bien chaud, on les passe sur des seins nus. On masse encore et encore. La petite fille, qui généralement croit que tout est normal, crie de douleur. Elle a mal. Mais, sa maman lui répète que tout va bien et que c’est pour son bien.

Certaines femmes après les massages mettent des serre-seins sur la poitrine de leur fille. Ce tissu, plein d’élastiques, sert à compresser les seins de la jeune fille, à les aplatir…

Je veux juste dire à nos mamans, à nos tantines, à nos grand-mamans, laissez les seins de vos filles, nièces, petites filles, tranquilles. Nous vous appelons toutes mamans :

S’il te plaît maman, laisse mes seins tranquilles !  

I did not want to write about this topic because it was too sensitive, too personal for me. Too many of my friends and family are victims of it. I wanted to keep my mouth shut. But what do you do when despite the praise for feminine atttributes all over the media, so many people still say: ” My daughter ‘s breasts are growing too fast ! Everything must be done to massage them in “.

The Instruments They Use

They use stones, plantain peels and leaves of the “Ngwollne” tree ( I say in my mother tongue) that are heated on a wooden fire. And breast clamps too!

Once everything is red hot, they are pushed against bare breasts, again and again. The little girl, who believes this is the norm, screams in pain. It is obviously painful. But her mother tells her that everything is fine and that it is for her own good.

Some women after this procedure put clamps on the chest of their daughter. The fabric is made of elastic material that is used to compress the breasts of the girl, to flatten them. 

I just want to tell our mothers , our aunties , our grandmas , leave the breasts of your daughters, nieces, little girls alone. We call on all mothers :

“Please mom, leave my boobs alone!”

A video documentary about breast ironing can be seen here.


  • Solana Larsen

    This is so shocking to me, I never heard of this.

  • Lauren Swan

    There is an endless, timeless obsession with every part of the female body to do something to it. It’s never good enough just the way it is.

  • Tori

    I am so privileged. Really. I am continually reminded of that.

  • American Patriot

    This is nothing short of torture!
    Almost akin to the Chinese practice of ‘clubbing’ young girl’s feet, so they remain small.
    When will humanity finally grow up and accept their role in BEING adults, and halt these barbaric practices?

  • Darlene Parker

    What she doesn’t tell you is the reason mothers do this in Cameroon, is to keep the eyes of the hyenas off their young daughters. They are often left pregnant (and possibly HIV positive) which is a financial burden on the family. It is difficult to marry as well. So the tortuous routine of hiding their budding womanhood begins.

  • Neha Gour

    Breast Ironing is one of the five under-reported crimes relating to gender-based violence. I covered this issue months back.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site