The start of the school year normally means nervous excitement, but for children in Uzbekistan it’s a feeling of fear as hundreds of thousands are forced from their schools to pick cotton in life-threatening conditions.
Schools are closed down for the three-month cotton harvest and children, some as young as nine, are forced to pick cotton by hand. Students who fail to meet their targets or refuse to work are beaten or can face expulsion from school.
And the single biggest destination for this Uzbek cotton? The European market.
Gemma Wolfes from Anti-Slavery International set up a petition on Change.org calling for the European Union to end the trade preferences on Uzbek cotton imports. This week, a group of school children from Eastbourne will be presenting the petition to the European Parliament in Brussels.
Uzbekistan is the third largest exporter of cotton worldwide — almost half of that cotton is picked by state-sponsored forced child labour. Children suffer appalling conditions during the cotton harvest. Many contract hepatitis from insanitary conditions and there have even been reports of police throwing stones at children who weren’t picking cotton because they were sick.
Thanks to public pressure from human rights organisations, several UK retailers including Tesco and Marks & Spencer have already taken action to ban Uzbek cotton from their products — but the European Union has failed to take action on the issue.
Thousands of signatures from across Europe will show the EU that citizens do not want cotton produced by forced child labour. Please add your name to the “Cotton Crimes” petition and call on the President of the European Parliament to end trade preferences on Uzbek cotton imports and stop child slavery now:
petitions/tell-european- parliament-to-stop-supporting- forced-child-labor-in-the- cotton-industry
Thanks for being part of this,
– Brie and the Change.org team
P.S. Thousands of people are changing the world through petitions on Change.org every week. Here are some petitions started by people in the UK that need your support now:
Lorraine Close is a nurse from London who lived and worked with those affected by the 1984 Bhopal industrial catastrophe. When she heard that the company responsible for the area is now a major sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics, Lorraine started a petition calling for Lord Coe to drop the chemical company as partners for the games.
Ghada is a member of an airline cabin crew, she was appalled after seeing Ryanair’s latest advert of a staff member in her underwear stating “Red hot fares & crew” so she started a petition on Change.org demanding that the advert be pulled immediately. Click here to sign Ghada’s petition and tell Ryanair to stop using this demeaning advert.
Belarus is the only country in Europe to have the death penalty. This week a court there sentenced Vladislav and Dmitry to death — based only on confessions allegedly obtained through torture. Join Vladislav’s mother’s petition asking that the EU save these two young men from wrongful execution.
Alix Dunn created a petition on Change.org asking the Combined Tactical Systems Corporation (CTS) to stop selling tear gas that’s being used to kill activists to Egypt’s military.
Carin Zellerman started a petition to save the last dolphins in Switzerland, after two died following a rave held for two days just yards from their tank.