Wrap it up, she said: Revealing the breast flattening culture


18 May-24 May is Mental Health Awareness Week, there are thousands of practices that poses negative effect on the mental health of its survivals one of which is the breast flattening culture, though widely practiced, but it hasn’t received expected publicity as expected.

Breast flattening practice could be done either by ironing (with hot metal), pounding (with pestle), wrapping or massaging, although this practice is popular within the African culture, it is said to have originated from Cameroun.

Damage to the breast tissues, breast malformation, scarring, depression, trauma, low self-esteem are some of the possible effects of this ridiculous practice.

The practice though common with female children doesn’t exclude male children with excessive female hormone.
This article is based on a true life story, which will help illuminate some of the possible aftermath of the breast flattening practice on a victim.

Her brown eyes were fixed on the gait of the woman in the metal detector as she called the attention of almost everybody in the banking hall, due to her plus size stature finding it difficult to pass through and the device was screaming like a child crying for help.

Finally, she was able to pass through, she won the fight against the metal detector, but that still didn’t stop the stare which made her feel embarrassed and led to her clumsiness.

Lolade, still looking at the woman realized her face looked familiar probably why she couldn’t stop staring despite the angry stare the long queue of customers waiting to be attended to give her, while still trying to search her memory box for where she might have known the woman she was interrupted by a voice “jo omo mi” was what she heard and looking at the direction the voice came from, their gaze met and the woman screamed like she just won a Canadian visa lottery she shouted her name L-O-L-A-D-E , the woman sensed she her difficulty in recognizing her face she exclaimed emi ni Iya Ajoke (which means it’s me Iya Ajoke),the beaming smile on Lolade’s face showed she was happy to see her she told her to wait a little it for her to attend to few customers and showed her where to sit.

Iya Ajoke seated and smiling from molar to molar until she was attended to by her long lost daughter, she was beyond happy as she bade her goodbye she collected Lolade’s contact so she can catch up on how the rest of the family members are faring and to make her
banking transactions easy her next visit.

It was closing time and Lolade being her friendless self was going home alone, her low self-esteem made her colleagues think she is snobbish not knowing what she craves all day is self- confidence, the lack of self- confidence affected all aspect of her life as she lost a lot of job opportunities as a result, even her relationship is not left out.

Boarded a bus from Obalende to Ajah at that time of the day is like a displaced person looking for the nearest refugee camp finally, she found one and to add icing to her cake she got a seat close to the window which is one of her daily objectives as she sets out daily because, the heat and traffic gridlock could make one wish for the world to end.

The bus she boarded was about approaching Dolphin Estate when she started dossing off, her relaxation was cut short when she felt her bag move she had to shake off to sleep to avoid stories that touch.

Looking out the window with her eyes widely opened she started reminiscing about the day’s events when she remembered Iya Ajoke and she started having flash backs from 22 years ago still fresh like yesterday.

Iya Ajoke used to be a neighbour at the face-me-i-face-you her family lived at Shomolu, Lolade’s mother recently widowed mother always sought advice from Iya Ajoke she sees her as the elder sister she never had whenever Lolade’s mum is not around she and her siblings used to stay at Iya Ajoke’s house, they eat, play and sleep there sometimes, it was like their second home. The scenario about Iya Ajoke that Lolade refused forgetting was the advice she gave her mum when she was seven.

Lolade from four year old have learnt to do things on her own she washes sometimes, put-on her clothes and get ready for school, on one faithful morning she was taking too much time to get ready for school which her mum didn’t find appealing as she would be late to her cleaning job she race to Lolade’s room to find out what was happening, barging- in she saw the shock of her life when she saw that her seven year old daughter already have a bump on her chest she screamed like she just saw a ghost , Lolade felt embarrassed and that was the beginning of Lolade’s low self- esteem the why her mother treated the issue made her feel abnormal.

As usual her mother sought advice from her sisterly neighbour what she kept repeating was how a seven-year-old shouldn’t have a bump on her chest, she gave her verdict to the case by telling Lolade’s mother to always tie her chest so the bump will go back to wherever it came from.

Wrapping the breast with Ankara wrapper was an early morning routine for Lolade and her mother, this kept on till she was about ten years, when the breast wasn’t going back but rather getting bigger she had to start walking like a person with hunch back pushing her chest in, just so the size of her chest wouldn’t be so obvious.

All these affected her relationship with people, her confidence in class and in herself, her performance in school work wasn’t spared from the effect.

She grew older and her bosom became the first thing people notice about her despite the constant everyday wrapping, it was as if the breast got angry and decided to do the opposite of what they expected, this always made her feel like the odd one out and made her always keeping to herself to avoid being noticed.

Seeking employment was another issue as she always felt uneasy whenever she got invited for interviews which usually affect her performance during the interview process. She had to settle for the bank teller contract job to make ends meet.

Lolade’s mother sought advice from the wrong person and the decision she took had a tool on her daughter in all spectrum of life, she never forgave Iya Ajoke as she always felt like the odd one out in whatever setting she found herself.

The gbishhh sound she heard brought her back to life, a car just hit her bus and it was then she realized the bus had passed where she was to alight, she came down with other passengers as the driver was to fight the driver of the car that just hit his bus. Lolade crossed to the other side of the road to take a bus back home.

After effects aside, breast flattening is extremely painful especially when done with iron or metal. Breast development is a sign of puberty and not a plague that should gotten rid of, some start quite early while other starts later it’s not a problem that require solution, beware of the kind of people you seek advice from.

Let’s not be one the contributing factor to a child’s mental health problem just as Lolade’s mother’s decision affected her social, emotional and psychological aspect of health.


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