THE BREAST HANDBAG

I would say what drives me in life and my craft is the hunger to overcome a hurdle a difficulty, a problem a challenge. When I have an idea which seem hard to actualize and people are discouraging that’s when i am more motivated to keep pushing no matter how long it takes in order to actualize what I have in my imagination

CHRISTINE KATO

INSPIRATION BEHIND THE DESIGN

“The inspiration behind “The Breast Bag Design” emanates from a feminist view: a revolution; the need to empower women to reclaim, celebrate and embrace their bodies, sexualities: to display the power of femininity: to create awareness about issues affecting women; to make femininity look fierce; to celebrate womanhood.

THE BREAST IRONING PRACTICE

“Breast ironing” which is the Cameroonian custom of massaging young girl’s chests with hot tools—spatulas and pestles being the most common—in an attempt to flatten their developing breasts. This is done with the intention of postponing their first sexual relationships by making their bodies less attractive to men. Parents often fear that the girls won’t finish their education if they meet a man and become pregnant. For the most part, the flattening is carried out by female family members, either at home or with the assistance of a healer. The process begins as soon as the girls hit puberty—for some, that means as early as eight years old. The consequences of this can be disastrous for the victims’ health—cysts, breast cancer, and breastfeeding issues are all common, not to mention the abundance of psychological consequences linked to the practice. According to a 2011 GIZ report, one out of every ten Cameroonian girls has been subjected to breast ironing. Breast ironing is very popular in the nation of Cameroon. Carole, a victim of the practice there, explains how her mother told her that it was necessary. She claimed it was to keep away men because “‘men mean pregnancy.’” The routine would consist of her mother pressing a hot rock onto each of her breasts several times. It has left Carole with the permanent disfigurement of her breasts, which she describes as “flabby.” Physical defects are common consequences of this practice. Many maturing girls also face the possibility of breast cancer or difficulty breastfeeding. Mental trauma occurs as well, such as low-self-esteem and feelings of betrayal or resentment.

Breast ironing affects about one in four girls in Cameroon, but it is by no means limited to this country in particular. The practice also occurs in the nations of Nigeria, Benin and Chad, according to Newsweek. Recently, reports revealed that the practice was taking place in some African communities within the U.K. as well. The CAME Women and Girls Development Organization, a charity campaigning on behalf of breast ironing victims, has claimed that over 1,000 girls in Britain have dealt with the practice. Fortunately, a number of global charities have increased volunteer work within Cameroon. The Victims of Cameroon’s Horrific Breast Ironing Tradition.

         STORY 1 “Having breasts was shameful. My grandmother noticed mine when I was 10. One night, she made me lie down on a bamboo bed by the fire. She pressed on me with a hot wooden spatula and tried to flatten them. Even now, I don’t want people to touch my chest.” – Jeannette, 28 years old.

STORY 2 “They tell you: ‘Don’t scream, it’s for your own good.’ I haven’t had the courage to talk about it to my children yet. Three days ago, my son asked me, ‘Mommy, why do you have small breasts?’ I told him that I didn’t know. I also have a six-year-old daughter. But I’m not ready to talk about it. I would have loved to breastfeed a future president.” –Carole N., 28 years old

STORY 3 “Sometimes, I can’t breathe because the bandage is so tight. It scares me. I’ve had it on for a year. It’s really hot, so I get spots everywhere underneath it. I don’t understand why my mom does this.” –Manuela, nine years old.

STORY 4 “They tell you: ‘Don’t scream, it’s for your own good.’ I haven’t had the courage to talk about it to my children yet. Three days ago, my son asked me, ‘Mommy, why do you have small breasts?’ I told him that I didn’t know. I also have a six-year-old daughter. But I’m not ready to talk about it. I would have loved to breastfeed a future president.” –Carole N., 28 years old.


WOMEN AND BODY SHAMING

When you shame a woman (or anyone) for making a decision about her own body, you are, essentially, telling her that her thoughts, emotions, and opinions about herself are invalid or superficial. In addition to supporting those who choose plastic surgery to help a physical condition (such as reducing back pain with breast reduction), we also need to stop the accusations of vanity for those who simply want to improve something that makes them unhappy (for instance, improving breast shape and size with breast augmentation).

Most women of different shapes and sizes are bullied all over the world. Women should feel comfortable and confident with their bodies.

BREAST FEEDING

More moms than you might realize have been shamed for breastfeeding their babies. I would say that most breastfeeding moms have at some point been harassed or made to feel embarrassed about breastfeeding. But as painful as they can be to listen to, we need to hear these stories. We need people to know how real they are, how frequently they happen, and how profoundly they affect women. There were those who endured judgement from family and even from friends from their doctors. This raises questions such as Should women breastfeed in public? Do people find it embarrassing? Should women cover up or rather go to the rest room to breast feed? Should women be encouraged to breastfeed?

STORIES
I was harassed at a Subway restaurant while breastfeeding my son. I was told to nurse in the bathroom or leave the restaurant. The sting of those words still haunts me to this day, almost 10 years later”.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, impacting 2.1 million women each year, and also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer – that is approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women. While breast cancer rates are higher among women in more developed regions, rates are increasing in nearly every region globally.

In order to improve breast cancer outcomes and survival, early detection is critical. There are two early detection strategies for breast cancer: early diagnosis and screening. Limited resource settings with weak health systems where the majority of women are diagnosed in late stages should prioritize early diagnosis programs based on awareness of early signs and symptoms and prompt referral to diagnosis and treatment.

 

 

breast cancer incidence and death rates by race and ethnicity during the most recent time period. Incidence and death rates for breast cancer are higher among non-Hispanic white (NHW) and non-Hispanic black (NHB) women than other racial and ethnic groups. Asian/Pacific Islander (API) women have the lowest incidence and death rates. • Between the ages of 65 and 84, NHW women have markedly higher breast cancer incidence rates than NHB women. However, NHB women have higher incidence rates before age 40 and are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age.

SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

Whoever you are, wherever you live, all the decisions you make about your own body should be yours.

Yet all over the world, many of us are persecuted for making our own choices and many more are prevented from making any choices at all. Governments are trying to dictate who we can kiss, who we should love, how we must dress, how we identify ourselves, when we have children, and how many we have.

Sexual and reproductive rights mean you should be able to make your own decisions about your body and:

  • get accurate information about these issues
  • access sexual and reproductive health services including contraception
  •  choose if, when and who to marry
  • decide if you want to have children and how many


They also mean our lives should be free from all forms of sexual violence, including rape, female genital mutilation, forced pregnancy, forced abortion and forced sterilization

Discrimination

There are many barriers to sexual and reproductive rights, including obstacles to access health services, information and education. But underlying these problems is discrimination.

Women and girls and people from marginalized groups, such as gay men, lesbian women and trans people or people from so called “lower” castes, people living in poverty, or minorities, risk a huge amount when they try to exercise choice.

CHRISTINE KATO

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