Is Exploitation and Human Trafficking in Every Stage of Fashion?


As I wrote in my previous post, the idea of modern day slavery (particularly in the fashion industry) is  complex and many staged. Below is a (simplified) order of events to get a feel for what it takes to make an item one item of clothing and then get it to your closet.


(picture from the book ‘Re-imagined’ being launched spring 2019, art by @agardenersdaughter)


Do you see how many places, spaces, factories, and countries are involved? Each one of those could be a space where human life is valued, or human life is abused and/or enslaved. In order to cut out human trafficking from the fashion industry as a whole we need to be aware and involved in each step.


We’ve spoken about some practical steps that we as consumers can take on a blog post HERE.


To begin the process of knowing how we can bring healing, let’s get familiar with the process of how a shirt comes to be!


STEP ONE! (And the step we will be focusing on today!)


Let’s say our shirt is cotton. One of the most sought after kinds of cotton is located in Uzbekistan and/or Turkmenistan. It is incredibly high quality as well a primary export (20% total exports for Uzbekistan) of both countries! However, the concern isn’t the quality, the problem it’s how it’s harvested that causes concern.


Uzbekistan was listed as the top 5 worst offenders for labor trafficking by ‘Walk to Freedom’ an Australian based counter-trafficking NGO. It is estimated that 3.9% of their population falls under the definition of “enslaved”. That is 1,236,600 human lives.


September is the primary month for cotton harvesting. Every year that brings a wave of  forced conscription to pick the [mostly] government owned cotton. While it is no longer systematic enforcement of children across the country, forced enlistment of adults is still prevalent and children being conscripted is still  common across these countries (in some places more than others). This is a relic of a soviet era policy.


Uzbekistan’s government says that these are false statements and their people volunteer due to a sense of “civic duty”.


The work is dangerous and exhausting.


While there have been huge campaigns against this form of enslavement such as #cottoncrimes and #dirtycotton and other such calls for justice, it is still a rampant and often unchecked way of assuring the national GDP. Many cases of school aged children being forced to spend long days working and their nights in poorly maintained and unhygienic camps so they can wake up early and head back out to the fields are common.


So what do we do?


If you are reading this you probably don’t live in Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan?

Does it stir your heart?

Do you rebel against the idea of humans being treated so?

If you are American, does it sound familiar? Like something we don’t want to be a part of ever again?


You matter in this fight against injustice. Your voice matters. Your vote matters.


How you spend your money is your power in these broken economic systems. Vote for freedom. Vote for the belief that human life is worth more than as a tool to be used.






Further resources:


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