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Dominican Sisters of Houston
Human Trafficking and the Four Cs: Cotton
December 20, 2011

This is the third in a series of articles addressing the Four Cs and their relationship to human trafficking. Cotton, the touch, the feel, the fabric of slavery!

COTTON: When we think of cotton and slavery in the same sentence, many of us think back to the pre-civil war days when slaves picked cotton in fields in the United States.  Well the connection of cotton with slavery did not end with the abolition of slavery in U.S.  Now the U.S. imports millions of bales of cotton each year.  BUT did you know that in many cotton-producing countries like India, China, Pakistan, Egypt and Uzbekistan, children and forced laborers harvest much of the cotton?
 
Each year over one million children between the ages of seven and twelve are hired (under the authority of Egypt's Agricultural Ministry,) by Egypt's agricultural cooperatives to take part in cotton pest management. Twelve is Egypt's minimum age for seasonal agricultural work.  The children are expected to work eleven hours a day, including a 2 hour break, seven days a week.  This far exceeds the limit set by Egyptian Child Law.  The children not only face exposure to heat and pesticides, they are subject to beatings from their foremen.

In Uzbekistan, the world's second largest exporter of cotton, thousands of children, as young as seven, work in the cotton fields instead of attending school.  They are forced to do so in order to meet government-imposed cotton production quotas.  The majority of cotton is picked by hand and up to one third of the country's workforce labors on cotton farms.  While the cotton industry is very profitable for a few large landowners and political elites, the vast majority of cotton farmers live in dire poverty. Farmers are forced to grow cotton and the money is appropriated by the ruling regime.  The official price farmers receive is one third of the true value and often times they receive less.  Thus the children are forced to work to meet the quotas instead getting an education.

How can you help?  Learn about the issue! Why is cotton such a big deal in Uzbekistan?  Where on earth is Uzbekistan?  Click here to learn more

By buying Fair Trade products we can play a part in supporting slave-free products.your dollar does make a difference!  The Fair Trade Certification process guarantees a fair price to the producers and insures that no child or forced labor of any kind is used.  In order to use the fair trade label, 100% of the primary ingredient must be certified.

 

 

To learn more about what you can do to abolish this form of modern day slavery contact the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition at www.houstonrr.org/.