Visitors at EJF’s White Gold exhibition at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool were invited to design an original T-shirt slogan to raise awareness of EJF’s campaign to end the abuse of labour rights in the cotton production industry in Uzbekistan. The exhibition at the museum explores how the cotton supply chain works, how we as consumers are part of this chain, and how we can make a difference.
Katie Fernandez from Liverpool was chosen with her catchy slogan, "Thousands of Childhoods Lost… And all I got was this lousy T-shirt" and received her very own 100% organic cotton T-shirt this week. Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett explains why she chose this design:
“It’s true. Uzbekistan, and many other countries, routinely uses slave child labour to pick its cotton, also exposing them to deadly pesticides, so that the West can have cheap clothing and big brands can make a lot of money. The true price of clothing is paid in lost childhoods, human suffering and environmental degradation. If people only bought cotton that is certified, fairly traded and organic, it would stop this happening.”
Cotton is grown in over 80 countries and valued annually at over US $30bn. Thousands of people across the world are exploited and abused by the extremely lucrative cotton production industry with several of the world's top cotton producing countries using children in the field. Uzbekistan is the 5th largest producer of cotton and the 3rd largest exporter. Cotton production in Uzbekistan is one of the most exploitive industries in the world: the Uzbek Government forcibly conscripts hundreds of thousands of its citizens to work in its billion dollar cotton industry, and forced child labour is state-sponsored.
We asked our competition winner Kate Fernandez to explain her thoughts behind her great slogan. She said:
“Having lived and travelled in developing countries, it sometimes worries me how easily seeing children at work, or begging on the streets, can become normalised. This exhibition provided a stark reminder that cultural relativism is often just an excuse for exploitation of children, which is even more shameful when it's in the pursuit of cheap throwaway fashion to fulfil our seemingly ever-increasing need to consume.”
Europe is one of the major destinations for Uzbekistan cotton – either directly buying raw cotton or final products manufactured internationally.
EJF is committed to eradicating child labour and the deadliest pesticides from cotton production and promoting organic alternatives. We work to raise public awareness by pressing retailers to only sell "clean cotton" for cotton products and to show the country of origin of the cotton on the label to improve transparency in the supply chain. EJF is also calling for an EU regulation on forced child labour.
Over the last few years, a number of major international retailers and well known high-street clothing brands have pledged to avoid the use of Uzbek cotton in their supply chains. Such voluntary initiatives from the private sector have not been matched by action at policy level by European Governments.
Join EJF in eradicating child labour in cotton production. All our T-shirts are manufactured using 100% organic cotton and by using renewable energies. Please visit our online shop for more information on our fantastic designer T-shirts.