Genevieve Ndjessa gestures in front of her house in Douala, Nov. 3, 2013. Genevieve's daughter Julie Ndjessa, whose breasts were ironed by her mother when she was 16, now gives weekly education sessions about breast ironing and rape to girls in their family's living room.
New government research shows that "breast ironing," where the breasts of young girls are flattened using a hot stone, has seen a 50 percent decline since it was first uncovered during a 2005 survey on rape and incest in Cameroon conducted by the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ).
A stone and stick used for breast ironing are seen on a stool outside survivor Julie Ndjessa's home in Douala, Nov. 4, 2013.
Mothers in Cameroon have practiced breast ironing on their growing daughters in an effort to suppress breast development, in an attempt to curb premarital sex. The practice has declined by 50 percent, but is still enacted, often in secret.
Survivor Julie Ndjessa holds a stick used for breast ironing over a fire for a demonstration at her home in Douala, Nov. 4, 2013.
In a 2011 report, the Cameroon NGO Gender Empowerment and Development wrote that breast ironing is used under the belief that "removing" signs of puberty from girls as young as eight will protect those women from sexual harassment, rape and pregnancy. This is intended not only to allow girls to continue education rather than be forced into an early marriage, but also to protect the girl's family name from being tarnished.
Douala, CameroonSurvivor Mick-Sophie Anne, 31, peels an orange for sale at a stall at a bus station in Douala, Nov. 4, 2013. Mick-Sophie had her breasts ironed by her mother at the age of 10, and now educates other women and girls on the dangers of the practice.
Priscille Dissake, 46, sits at the kitchen table in her house in Douala, Cameroon, Nov. 4, 2013. Dissake ironed her daughter Mick-Sophie Anne's breasts when Mick-Sophie hit puberty at age 10.
The United Nations Population Fund says one out of four girls in Cameroon has been subjected to the practice - about 4 million women, as estimated by a survey of 5,000 girls and women aged 10 to 82.