“It is our hope that, through our short video, we will reach out, inform and encourage people to act in the interests of the children of Uzbekistan.” (Samuel Cooper, Anti-Slavery International)
Anti-Slavery International is calling on the European Parliament to remove preferential trade tariffs with Uzbekistan. Click here for more information and to sign the petition.
Over 60 international retailers have joined forces to boycott Uzbek cotton, publicly stating their commitment to the eradication of forced child labour through the Responsible Sourcing Network, an As You Sow initiative.
Click below to learn more about what’s happening inUzbekistanand to follow our ongoing coverage:
As a returning supporting sponsor for ECO Fashion Week—Vancouver, we once again contributed an educational/informational card to the SWAG (gift) bags. For the September event, our card focused on the life-cycle of a regular T-shirt, taking the learner on a contextual journey through nine countries: Uzbekistan, Dubai, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Canada (Vancouver), USA (New York), Japan, and Tanzania. Information on this journey is available in [Lesson 2] Connect // Key Players. For this past event, we centered our attention on providing ‘fast facts’ for two special focus touch points: Uzbekistan and Bangladesh. If you would like information on how to deliver these educational/informational cards in your classroom or business, please contact us for templates.
[Images below depict the front, inside and back of the card, printed on recycled hemp]
Front of card:
Fashion Supply Chain: Special Focus // Uzbekistan + Bangladesh
Yet another update on forced and child labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector.
The Cotton Campaign continues to report on the flagrant abuse of human rights by the Uzbek government. There have been some unfortunate incidents linked to this year’s harvest (to read more about them click below) including:
The Cotton Campaign also points to an Independent World Report article on this issue that points out that Unicef, which has a significant presence in Uzbekistan, is not addressing this situation. The article also targets two major retailers, H&M and Inditex (Zara and Bershka), that are both sourcing some of their garments from suppliers in Bangladesh which in turn source some of their cotton from Uzbekistan. One of the excuses used by some brands is that it’s difficult to trace the source of a garment’s cotton. The article dismissed this excuse with a quote from Juliette Williams from the Environmental Justice Foundation:
We would like to know more about the traceability issue. Is it really as difficult as some claim? What are the factors that are preventing some brands from moving forward on this? We would like to hear from you. Please help us learn about this and leave a comment below or contact us.
Special thanks to Cassandra Cavanaugh from Cotton Campaign who let us know that Kohl’s has now joined the boycott.
A young boy carrying cotton. From cbc.ca (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov).
Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world. Unfortunately, this cotton comes at a high price. Thanks to a number of campaigns, it is no secret that Uzbekistan uses forced labour especially child labour during the harvesting seasons. When it’s time to harvest the cotton, the government shuts down schools and public offices while people are forced into the fields to pick cotton, often for long hours with no protective gear, inadequate food and water. According to some accounts, children as young as seven are forced into the fields. Those who do not meet quotas are denied access to utilities and government services such as electricity, gas or water. This large scale mobilization of labour benefits a small number of large landowners and political elites who stand to make a large profit from the cotton. This concentration of wealth was further condensed following the fall 2008 harvest when the government forcibly confiscated farmland. Corruption obviously plays a large role in this system as The Economist (June 11th, 2009) has pointed out:
So, what is being done to improve this situation? There has been a large scale mobilization to boycott Uzbek cotton. Over the past year, a number of large companies have heeded the call including Walmart, The Gap, Tesco, C&A, Levis Strauss, Marks & Spencer and Continental Clothing. In response, the Uzbek government decreed the prohibition of child labour and has ratified ILO conventions regarding child labour and minimum working age (conventions 182 & 138). Regardless, the forced labour continues. While the government denies the existence of child labour, reports from Uzbekistan tell a different story. This has spurred a group of institutional investors to write a letter to the ILO’s Director General urging him to take action on the matter. In this letter they write:
Uzbekistan is not the only place where this happens, but this campaign is gaining ground. If this story has a happy ending, perhaps it will be a message to the rest of the countries engaging in these activities that forced labour is not acceptable.