Woman struggled with big boobs, but one bra changed her life for good
Rose Nyabhate is the Founder of ‘One Girl One Bra’ organization. She tells The Nairobian how her abnormal breast size led her to become a breast health champion.
Take us through your upbringing.
I lived with my uncle for the better part of my early life. I lost my father when I was two years old. He had enough to support us much as my mother was a second wife. After the death of my father, my mother was chased away and we ended up in the streets trying to make a living. My mother was a hawker and we didn’t have anything, not even a radio. Unfortunately, when things were just picking up for us, my mother died.
What was the cause of her death?
I think she was murdered and that’s how I ended up living with my uncle who was a police officer while I was in class three. He took me to school. Later, when I told him I wanted to pursue a course in mass communication, he discouraged me saying that the media takes only very beautiful and ‘decorated’ women, and that I didn’t have a face for that. I went into social work, but I still wanted a post in the media. So I started writing, and I was recruited as a writer for ViuSasa where I have my production company, Mocha TV.
Tell us about your unique health condition.
At the age of 11, my breasts starting growing at a weird speed, and by 12 years, my breasts were too big. I did not have a bra, and my breasts would not fit in a boob top like other girls. I did not understand why my breasts were too big and why I was different from other girls. I didn’t have anyone to talk to at this point because I was living with my uncle in a police camp. The stigma started here as other people would make fun of me.
How bad was the discrimination?
It was very bad, and even the way duties were delegated in class was a clear indicator of stigma. There was a group of girls like me and we were always told to sit at the back of the class. Heavy duties like carrying water and cooking for teachers was left to us. We were groomed differently from the others. I was really bullied a lot. Girls like me were an easy target in the village, and in most cases when schools closed, they didn’t come back. I think I was just lucky to survive it.
I was embarrassed as women used to point fingers at me, saying am playing with men, and because I lived at the police camp, they kept saying the policemen were ‘using’ me.
How did all this affect you?
I had very low self-esteem. I was an excellent student but my performance in class went really down. I did not participate in any games because my breasts were too big and moved awkwardly when I ran. People made fun of it. Older women even said that I had given birth somehow. I had to hang on to my studies because I didn’t have a backup plan. I even got proposals for marriage at class 6. These were the toughest days of my life.
What was your turning point?
I joined the drama and music club as it was the only place I could wear more than two sweaters to hide my breasts. While in class eight, a certain teacher identified me during the music festival and brought me a bra. She told me to put it on and walk straight. Her words changed me, she was like the mother I never had. She changed my life and told me everything I needed to know.
How did you start your organisation?
I saw the disturbing number of teenage pregnancies and remembered the one lady who changed my life with a bra. I then started buying bras and taking them to teenage girls while speaking to them about sex education, mental health and self-esteem. I also tell them that it is normal to have huge breasts because we do not have the same bodies.
What have you learnt from your experience?
Helping others is important. Many people supported me, so I do the same. I get fulfilment from this.