Some call them Padaung Ladies, whilst they refer to themselves as the Kayan Lahwi people. They have also been nicknamed the Giraffe Women, but most importantly, they remain unreached by the good news of Jesus.

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The life of a Giraffe Woman

I was born in Myanmar, near the Thai border. My people have been persecuted by the Burmese army for years, and so my family, like many others, found refuge in Thailand.

Giraffe Women AppealI have over twenty coils now, and am still expected to do household duties - just like I was expected to marry and bear children. I long for a life of freedom, without pain, but I could never remove these rings - it would lead to suffocation. I know a woman who was accused of adultery and was punished by the removing of the rings. She spent the rest of her life lying flat, unable to lift her head or do anything for herself.

I remember when they first put a brass ring around my neck at age five. It was heavy, a huge weight chafing my soft skin as I played with my younger brother. He would not have to endure the collapse of his collar bone and upper ribs as more rings were added year by year; this custom was for the women only, women known as ‘Giraffe women’.

I dreaded the time each year when another coil would be added

A coil takes three hours to fit, and only one woman in the village is trained to do it. I dreaded the time each year when another coil would be added. As the years have passed, the rings have grown heavier. I have suffered pain from my collapsing frame, and it has become so hard to drink that I have resorted to using a straw.

My family are animists with a little Roman Catholicism mixed in. For important decisions they consult the chicken bones, which never seem to bring any change. We are taught to be humble and peace loving, so children don’t protest when the rings are put on.

Myanmar temples

The Kayan people originate from Myanmar

Other traditions carry on too. I am the youngest girl in my family, so I am responsible for the care of my grandparents. It is a huge task but one I accept as my privilege - unlike the brass coils.

I often asked my mother why we had to wear them and was told, “They make you look beautiful”, or sometimes, “Men from other tribes don’t like it so they won’t kidnap you”. No answer ever justified the suffering. They have been banned in my native Myanmar, but here in Thailand my family can make money from tourists who come to see the spectacle. That said, we only get a pittance.

My family can make money from tourists who come to see the spectacle

I have heard that some people are unafraid of the spirits, and reject the old customs and traditions. They have become followers of someone called Jesus and have stopped this barbaric custom. Maybe I should find out more about this God. I cannot change the wearing of the rings for me, but for my grandchildren, it could be so freeing.

Can you help me find Jesus?

You can help us take the good news of Jesus to unreached people groups in Asia through our Beautiful Feet fund, which sends native workers to the ends of the earth with the Gospel.