A little exchange of words broke out between Tayo Adebiyi and a petty trader who sells soft drinks at the Ketu area of Lagos on a hot Friday afternoon sometime in February.
Adebiyi had ordered for a cold bottled water which cost N50 and had also given the trader (a woman) a N200 note. The next action of the woman was what led to exchange of a series of abusive words between both parties.
When the woman wanted to give Adebiyi a balance of N150, she had dipped her hand into her bra to bring out the money. Adebiyi, being a Biochemistry graduate, was irritated and furious by this action to the extent that he returned the bottled water to her and collected his money back.
He told our correspondent he could never collect money kept in the bra and could not also understand why such a habit was still being practised by some market women in this modern age.
Adebiyi said, “I was angry at the woman because of where she brought out the money from to give me the change: her bra! Apart from that, the money she brought out was rumpled and smelling bad, obviously from the sweat it had been subjected to in her bra. I can’t imagine why a woman would keep money in her brassiere in this modern age. For what reason?”
However, for some market women, Saturday PUNCH findings have shown that keeping money in bras is not a new trend as it is a way through which they could secure their money from thieves and pickpockets.
Our correspondent visited some markets at Mile 12, Ketu, Ojota, and Yaba areas of Lagos to observe this old habit among market women. Observation reveals that apart from a few market women who keep their money in aprons and wallets, others simply keep theirs in their brassieres.
For Rasheedat Ogunwole, a market woman who sells tomatoes and pepper at the Ketu area of Lagos, she told our correspondent that she keeps her money in her bra because, according to her, it is safer there.
Ogunwole narrated two incidents that she experienced that made her decide to keep money in her bra anytime she is in the market.
She said, “It is because of pickpockets. I used to have a purse where I kept my money. But on two different occasions, I lost my purse to those thieves who hang around the market here. I did not even know how it got stolen on each occasion. On the first occasion, I kept the purse in my bag and was selling my goods. The market was so rowdy that day that I didn’t even notice when my purse was taken from my bag. I just saw that the zip of my bag had been opened and torn.
“I cried because apart from the money someone gave me, everything I made from sales that day was in the purse. I think I had about N10,000.”
Ogunwole said that happened in December 2012.
“Apart from that first experience,” she continued, “there was another one that happened sometime in July 2013. I had finished selling for the day and was packing. It was also getting dark and I was preparing to go home. While standing to get a bus to Ikorodu, where I live, my wallet was forcefully snatched away from me by those pickpockets who operate around here.
“My brother, since then, I decided to start keeping my money in the bra. Nobody would dare try dip his hand in my bra to steal my money.”
When asked if she doesn’t feel awkward keeping money in the bra, she said, “There is nothing to be ashamed of as long as my money is safe. It can be frustrating working from morning till evening and letting some bad guys steal my money.”
To another market woman, who gave her name simply as Bose, and who sells soft drinks on-the-go, her bra is her bank: for that is where her money is secure from, according to her, the ‘ugly’ thieves at the Mile 12 market in Lagos.
Bose’s experience does not differ much from Ogunwole’s. In fact, she said buying a wallet was tantamount to wasting money because, “as a market woman, I don’t need it.”
She said, “Wallet is for the corporate people – those who work in offices. It is not for market women like me.”
She also said the process of arranging money in a wallet was time-consuming for a market woman and that her own type of trade did not afford her such amount of time to waste.
But apart from that, there’s another reason why Bose said she wouldn’t keep her money anywhere else apart from her brassiere.
She said, “There are many thieves around here, especially those boys you see idling around (pointing to some shabbily-dressed boys on the pedestrian bridge at the market). Their own job is to look for unsuspecting people to snatch wallets and bags from. If you are not too careful here, they will steal your money.
“They have snatched my purse once. That was why I thought keeping it in my bra would be more secure. Moreso, some other women also keep theirs there. It’s not really a big deal to me as my money is now well-kept there. If you think your money is safe in the bank, go and keep it there; if yours is safe in wallet, good for you. As for me, it’s my bra, and nothing do me.”
Apart from money, our correspondent also observed as a woman brought out her mobile phone from her brassiere to pick a call. When she was through with it, our correspondent approached her to find out why she kept her phone in her bra.
Jumoke Adewale, who also sells foodstuffs at the Mile 12 market, told Saturday PUNCH she had lost three mobile phones in time past prior to keeping it in her new-found ‘safe.’ Though she wouldn’t talk for long as she was busy attending to her customers, Adewole said she didn’t see anything bad keeping her money and phone in her bra.
“As long as my things are safe, there is no problem about that,” she said.
As for Iyabo Adesina, she asked Saturday PUNCH if there was anything bad about the habit. She said she was willing to learn if there was any health implication of keeping money in her brassiere.
The 36-year-old seller of soft drinks at the Yaba area of Lagos told our correspondent she had been keeping money in her bra for close to three years since she started the business. She also said it did not really mean anything to her as it was just a way of keeping her money safe.
Adesina said, “I don’t really know if there is anything bad in the habit because to me, this is just a way of ensuring my money is safe from petty thieves and pickpockets in this area. Though my money has not been stolen before, I have friends whose wallets have been snatched.
“You know there is a saying that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and that it is better to learn from what has happened to others rather than what happens to you. To me, it makes sense to put my money in my bra because no thieves would be able to put their hands in there.
“Moreover, that’s the only place I can keep my money because I use my two hands to carry about my goods, so there is no extra hand to hold a purse or wallet. But if there is anything bad in it, tell me so I can change. But majorly, it’s for safety reason.”
However, Shakira Ogunjimi seemed to be different from her other colleagues. She sells provisions at the Idumota area of Lagos Island.
The young woman, who is yet to finish her National Diploma in Science and Laboratory Technology, told Saturday PUNCH she wouldn’t dare put her money in her bra for fear of contracting diseases, especially cancer.
Ogunjimi said, “That habit is not good at all. I even discourage my friends who indulge in this habit you are talking about. To me, health safety is of more concern than financial safety. What if you get cancer in the process?
“It is not even good considering the fact that it is not hygienic. When you sweat, it will make the money to smell bad. I also think it could cause rashes to women’s breasts.”
Any health implications?
A number of arguments have occurred whether the act of keeping money or cell phones in brassieres could cause breast cancer for the women who indulge in the habit.
However, according to Professor Remi Ajekigbe, a professor of Radiotherapy and Oncology and Head of Oncology Unit, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, there has been no scientific proof or link between putting money in bras and cancer.
He said, “There is no scientific proof that it causes cancer. Putting money or cell phones in bra cannot give anybody cancer.”
He also said except for the fact that it was a dirty habit, which was to be discouraged, no woman could contract cancer through such habit.
However, according to an international news site, examiner.com, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a reputable health expert, featured a woman who stored her cell phone in her bra for four years. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she realised that the tumour was located precisely where she had put her cell phone.
Just a coincidence? No, say many experts as well as women who had similar experiences. Although no definitive research exists proving that putting your cell phone in your bra causes breast cancer, Dr. Oz recommends playing it safe.
Breast cancer expert Dr. John West agrees, and he expressed concern about teens in particular. “Store your cell phone in an area far away from your chest, regardless of your age.”
The World Health Organisation agrees that radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer. WHO includes cell phone usage in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.
“One problem is that it can take a while to determine the correlation between cell phones and cancer. The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in a recent interview with CNN.
However, in some cases, cancer develops sooner, according to the Environmental Health Trust. The non-profit organisation notes that “most of us have no idea that cell phones are small microwave radios that should not be kept directly on the body.”
And they agree with Dr. Oz, saying that “the ways some people are using their phones today could increase their risk of developing breast cancer and other diseases tomorrow. Cell phone’s microwave radiation seeps directly into soft fatty tissue of the breast.”