Young students of Garston asked a national forum at Oxford University, “Can you feel the sadness in your clothes?” on June 26. The students’ participated in workshops by Anti-Slavery International last year and since developed their own “Cut Cotton Crimes” campaign. The students’ informed and outraged presentation highlighted the problem of international complicity in the government of Uzbekistan’s system of forced labor of adults and children in its cotton sector.
Read about the students’ presentation here.
As the students suggest, cotton made by Uzbek people in conditions of slavery should arouse sadness and lead to action. In their presentation, the students sent a critically important message to governments and companies throughout apparel supply chains. The continuing and systematic use of forced labor in the Uzbek government’s cotton production system will end when governments and businesses listen to the next generation and take action to end the violation of the rights of Uzbek citizens. Young people are right to be outraged and to call on the leaders of governments and businesses to use their leverage with the government of Uzbekistan to end forced labor in the cotton sector.
The call from the students of Garston is timely. Urgent action is required from governments and companies to directly inform the Uzbek government that continued business, political and economic relations depend on ending forced labor in the cotton sector. As a very first step, all governments and businesses should immediately call on the Uzbek government to invite the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to conduct unfettered monitoring of the 2012 cotton harvest.