An Egyptian photographer broke a record when she became the first from her country to win the World Press Photo Award 2018.
Heba Khamis, 29, got the prize for her Banned Beauty picture, which is one in a series of photographs she has taken of women performing a "breast ironing" tradition – a common practice in Cameron.
And it is as awful as it sounds. Breast ironing, also known as breast flattening, is the process of pounding and massaging a pubescent girl's breasts using hard and heated objects to try to make them stop developing or to make them disappear. Usually a wooden pestle is used for the pounding, and girls as young as 8 years old are subjected to it. All this is done to delay maturity (as if that were possible) and stop sexual advances and rape.
Khamis, who is also a painter and ex photojournalist for Tahrir, an Egyptian newspaper, tells the story of these girls in a matter of fact way that is heartbreaking and brave at the same time. The girls in the series are standing or sitting facing the camera, not a single emotion on their face. In one photo, a young girl's breast is exposed as she waits for her mother, who is in the foreground beating the mortar in something hot in preparation. In all the pictures, the girls are wearing scarves wrapped around their breasts, and it feels like they're emotionally removing themselves from the scene.
How Khamis was able to stand watching that, let alone photograph it, is a testament to her will to shed light on a crime against women.
Khamis and her winning image beat out 73,044 images taken by 4,548 photographers from 125 different countries. We hope it also helps win the favor of policy makers in Africa.