CAMEROON, Africa - Breast ironing is a practice that may be unfamiliar to most Americans, but in Cameroon, one out of every four girls has experienced hot stones being seared into their undeveloped chests, according to a report from The Grio.
As cruel as the practice may seem, many of the women and elders in Cameroon and other African nations inflict young girls with burning stones in an effort to help them---they believe it will protect the girls from being raped or engaging in premarital sex.
Breast ironing is a taboo custom often done in secrecy.
Practitioners believe that deforming these girls' chests will keep them focused on their studies and push them toward success.
But as a woman who witnessed breast ironing as a child, journalist and advocate Chi Yvonne Leina told The Griot that it only leaves women with physical scars and psychological agony.
"Your mom is doing that to you. What is the message she's passing to you as a little girl?" Leina said.
"That you're having breasts: It's wrong, it's shameful. You don't like your body."
Published reports have also connected breast cancer, infections and a litany of other ailments to the practice.
Leina saw it happen to her cousin at age 14, so when her grandmother attempted to do it to her, she refused and threatened to tell everyone about it.
When she saw that speaking up helped to save her, she decided to study journalism to help others and has since dedicated a bulk of her career to educating people about the practice in hopes of eradicating it.
Her organization, Gender Danger, promotes campaigns and media coverage to end the practice. To learn more about her organization, click here: http://www.genderdanger.com/index.html
To learn more about Leina's crusade against the practice, read The Griot's report here: ( http://bit.ly/Zu6Vnl )