Uzbekistan, listed by the U.S. Department of labor for both forced and child labor, is the only country in the world where children are forced and organized by the government to harvest cotton which earns it over one billion dollars annually. RSN refers to the Uzbek cotton industry as the organized crime: though child labor in cotton production remains endemic in many countries, nowhere it is more organized than in Uzbekistan where the government forces over one million children to labor harvesting cotton each year, shutting down schools and public offices for months at a time, and mobilizing school students, teachers and public servants to the cotton fields each fall. This abusive practice earns the Uzbek government over one billion dollars annually.
RSN recommends that brands and retailers carrying cotton products should minimize their exposure to Uzbek cotton, the presence of which in a product implies both social and environmental risk and may seriously damage a company’s reputation. Instead they are encouraged to contribute to bringing about the change for Uzbek children, start raising awareness of this problem, support the public statement and engage in industry and multi-stakeholder initiatives.
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