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Published on Apr 3, 2007
Fashion Victims? Up to one third of Uzbekistan's workforce is made to labour on cotton farms; denied ownership of the land they work, and forced to labour without reasonable wages they are unable to opt out of cotton cultivation -- those who try are subject to violence, imprisonment and intimidation.
Tens of thousands of children are forced to pick the cotton harvest each year. Crucially, the suffering caused by this industry comes at the hands of the government. It is the Uzbek state, not the country's mafia that instigates the abuses connected to the production and sale of cotton turning its people in to a slave nation.
For more information please visit www.ejfoundation.org
The Environmental Justice Foundation is leading an international campaign to end human rights and environmental abuses in cotton production, and to promote organic and fairly traded cotton.
In Uzbekistan, tens of thousands of children, some as young as seven, are taken out of school and forced to work in the cotton fields for little or no money during the harvest. The period can last up to three months, during which older children live in dormitories or classrooms under harsh conditions. The combined effect of exhausting work, a poor diet, lack of clean water and exposure to toxic pesticides has a dramatic impact on health.
The cotton industry has also caused an ecological disaster. The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest inland lake, providing the region with fish and water, has shrunk to 15% of its original size. The salinity of water and soil has increased, and as desperate farmers apply more water to their fields, they exacerbate the problem. This leads to infertile soil and areas of salty desert contaminated with pesticide residues.