Uzbekistan: Children Continue to Work on Cotton Fields despite Official Ban
Just recently the Uzbek government vowed to combat the use of child labour on cotton fields. However, latest reports from Uzbekistan appear at odds with government’s intentions.
In September Uzbek government has finally admitted child labour is used on cotton fields and promised to eradicate flagrant practices. However, Ferghana.ru correspondents from Uzbekistan say lots of children could be seen on the fields as harvesting has started.
A farmer in the Gizhduvansky district in Bukhara region, who preferred to stay anonymous, told Ferghana.ru he hired thirty children, including pupils in the first grade. He pays 40 sums, or 0,03 US dollars, for a kilo of gathered cotton. He said that children usually collect up to 80 kilos of cotton a day and earn 2,5-3 US dollars each.
“They go to work absolutely voluntarily,” the farmer notes. “Children skip classes to earn money, and they are happy with what they make because they are coming from very poor families.”
The situation proves much more should be done to end child labour apart from simple declarations to fight it. The problem goes much deeper into critical socio-economic situation and high poverty rate.
Working children are also discriminated in payment. If adult gets 30 cents for one kilo of cotton, children make no more than 3 cents. Two kilos of raw cotton make a kilo of refined cotton that is sold for almost one US dollar on the international market.
Isenkyor Uzbek-language web portal reports that a group of high school students are gathering cotton in Jizak region. Some 1200 students from industrial collage and the same number of medical students were sent to cotton fields in the Dustilk and Mirzachulik districts of the region.
Students, some of whom have not reached 15 years of age, are placed in barracks without facilities.
“There is no drinking water, we take water from aryks [small canals traditionally used in Central Asia for irrigation]. Even dogs do not want to eat what we are fed with,” said one of the students who did not want to introduce himself.
“The daily plan is to gather 80 kilograms of cotton, but I pick up only 35 or 40 kilos at most,” said another student.
Specialists cited by Insekor claim that without child labour harvesting cotton in Jizak region is impossible.
“If cotton is not gathered on time we can lose the whole harvest,” said a specialist on agriculture at the Jizak local administration.
Officials in the Namangan region say none of the students were recruited as cotton collectors, however, Ferghana.ru correspondents in the region deny these statements are truthful. Most of the collage students and university freshmen are now working on the fields, they claim.