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  • » 05/26/2009, 00.00


    Making cotton as homework for Uzbek children

    Students in Fergana province have to make 200 paper funnels each in which to plant cotton seeds. Uzbek authorities allow child exploitation in the country’s largest export earning industry.
    Tashkent (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Fergana province Uzbek children have odd school homework to do. Teachers recently gave them the assignment of making at least 200 paper funnels each, add soil and plant cotton seeds inside.

    This is the latest experiment in cotton farming introduced by the government in a country where cotton is the main export product.

    In fact schools and universities are closed from September to December, when cotton is picked, and students sent to the fields.

    Last year some major Western retail store chains like Marks & Spencer and Wal-Mart boycotted products containing Uzbek cotton to protest the use of child labour in Uzbek cotton plantations.

    But with pressure on farmers mounting as a result of unfavourable weather during the planting season, rights activists say kids will be back at work in the fields this year.

    Uzbek bans child labour, but the cotton industry, which is owned by the government, is labour intensive and minors are cheaper than adults who are paid on average US$ 6-7 a day.

    Karim Bozorboev, a human-rights campaigner in Uzbekistan’s Sirdaryo Province, said that even though the authorities has reassured the international community that it is opposed to child labour, the reality is that has done precious little, except perhaps to encourage it.

    “During the 2008 cotton-harvest season, we had information that the deputy of the provincial governor, who is in charge of agricultural issues, told people that if you don’t send your children to cotton fields, you will be declared enemies of the nation,” he said.

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    See also

    22/01/2008 UZBEKISTAN
    Open letter against child labour calls for Uzbek cotton boycott
    Human rights activists denounce Uzbek state for forcing pupils to leave schools to pick cotton at low wages. Profits go to politicians. Clothing retailers join the boycott, but the campaign is proving controversial. Teacher tells of her experience.

    15/02/2018 16:33:00 UZBEKISTAN
    Child labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields has come to an end, says UN agency

    Concrete measures have also been taken against forced labour. There is greater awareness of the problem and more freedom to criticise. The authorities have boosted wages, and taken steps to protect at-risk groups. Still, reforms by central authorities are lagging in terms of local implementation.

    27/03/2015 UZBEKISTAN
    Expulsion of Russian expert monitoring child labour practices in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry
    Uzbek authorities arrested and then expelled the consultant whose presence was part of a deal with the World Bank. The latter’s loans were predicated on the Central Asian nation eliminating child labour from its cotton industry. The expert was in contact with the country’s only human rights NGO. For many years, Uzbekistan has tried to circumvent international rules to counter the boycott by American and European companies.

    18/10/2012 UZBEKISTAN
    Millions of Uzbek cotton slaves to "make nation great"
    The harvest takes place every year between October and November and involves the entire population, including children, the elderly and pregnant women. The work is done by hand to maintain the high quality of the product. Hundreds of international brands interested in the Uzbek cotton, including Adidas and H & M.

    28/10/2008 UZBEKISTAN
    Western boycott fails as Uzbek children still forced to pick cotton
    Like every year from mid-September to November Uzbekistan shuts down its schools and forces students to pick cotton at very low wages. But whilst Western companies are boycotting Uzbek cotton, South Asian and East Asian companies continue to buy it, turning hefty profits.

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