Seven in 10 child laborers around the world work in agriculture and cotton is one of the crops that children sometimes help harvest. In Uzbekistan, state-sponsored child labor occurs as large numbers of school children are forced to leave school and help harvest cotton.

Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton

By Cam Simpson – Dec 15, 2011

Clarisse Kambire’s nightmare rarely changes. It’s daytime. In a field of cotton plants that burst with purple and white flowers, a man in rags towers over her, a stick raised above his head. Then a voice booms, jerking Clarisse from her slumber and making her heart leap. “Get up!”

The man ordering her awake is the same one who haunts the 13-year-old girl’s sleep: Victorien Kamboule, the farmer she labors for in a West African cotton field. Before sunrise on a November morning she rises from the faded plastic mat that serves as her mattress, barely thicker than the cover of a glossy magazine, opens the metal door of her mud hut and sets her almond-shaped eyes on the first day of this season’s harvest. (Follow her journey in videos, photos and more here.)

She had been dreading it. “I’m starting to think about how he will shout at me and beat me again,” she said two days earlier. Preparing the field was even worse. Clarisse helped dig more than 500 rows with only her muscles and a hoe, substituting for the ox and the plow the farmer can’t afford. If she’s slow, Kamboule whips her with a tree branch.

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Fairtrade Response to Bloomberg Article

Bloomberg article “Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton” published yesterday draws attention to the plight of “enfants confies”, foster children common across West Africa. The article highlights the story of one particular child, allegedly from a Fairtrade certified cotton farm. We take this allegation on the violation of human rights of the child very seriously and have put in place appropriate actions.

Fairtrade International first learned of the specific child labour allegation last week when we were contacted by the Bloomberg journalist Cam Simpson. This allegation immediately triggered our internal Child Protection Policy and Procedures. We developed this policy and procedure to respond to detections and/or allegations of vulnerable children engaged in unacceptable labour within Fairtrade operations. Our first and foremost priority is the safety and welfare of impacted children and their communities. Read more

Uzbekistan: EU Parliamentarians Reject Textile Deal With Uzbekistan

October 5, 2011 – 3:06pm, by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick [Source: EurasiaNet.org]

European Union parliamentarians have rejected a trade deal that would have eased Uzbekistan’s export of textiles to Europe, citing the use of forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe reported.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted unanimously against the inclusion of textiles in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), the pact that has governed EU-Uzbek trade since 1999. The vote prevented a lowering of tariffs on EU imports of Uzbek cotton, which make up at least 25 percent of Uzbekistan’s exports.

The language of the legislation now stipulates that the inclusion of textiles “should only be put to the vote by Parliament after international observers, and in particular the International Labor Organization (ILO), have been granted by the Uzbek authorities close and unhindered monitoring.”

The Uzbek government has failed to invite the ILO to inspect cotton fields during the harvest season, despite calls from employers and unions at the ILO annual meeting as well as human rights groups.

In February, the European Council approved an amendment to the PCA, extending the customs and tariffs breaks to Tashkent. But the European Parliament had yet to approve it, and it still had to go through committees.

EU members of parliament became concerned about increasing reports of the exploitation of children in the cotton harvest. A coalition of international labor and human rights organizations, joined with Uzbek human rights groups working both inside the country and in exile, have been advocating for some years with MEPs to try to stop forced child labor, especially after Uzbekistan ratified the ILO convention against the worst forms of child labor in 2009.

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Advocates Protest Uzbekistan’s Use of Forced Child Labor


It’s not every day that you get your message through to one of the world’s most notorious dictators, but some of us in the child labor advocacy community think we may have just done that last week during New York City’s Fashion Week.

For several years, the Child Labor Coalition, 28 organizations working to end the labor exploitation of children around the world, has been deeply concerned about the forced use of child labor in Uzbekistan, where Islam Karimov has ruled with an iron fist for 21 years. Each fall, Uzbek school children and their teachers are forced to leave their classrooms and perform arduous hand-harvesting of cotton for up to two months. The children—estimates of their numbers range from several hundred thousand to almost two million—receive little or no pay and often perform this back-breaking work from young childhood and through college. The workers are charged for shelter and food and by the time those expenses are deducted their compensation is so small it would be fair to say they worked for little or no pay or “slave wages.” The profits of this labor tend to flow to Uzbekistan’s ruling elite. Unlike child labor in most countries, Uzbekistan’s occurs as a result of national policy filtered down to local government authorities.

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