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The Need for Organic Fairtrade Cotton in Burkina Faso

The Need for Organic Fairtrade Cotton in Burkina Faso

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Published by Mitch Teberg
Why does Forced Child Labour Continue Unabated in the 21st century? More importantly, why does this dehumanizing practice remain socially acceptable in some regions? Considering the recent row over Bloomberg Media's accusations of child labour in Fairtrade certified farms in Burkina Faso, I believe we need to look at the bigger picture and ask two pertinent questions:

1) Why does forced child labour continue unabated in the 21st century?

2) What impact does Fair Trade have in Burkina Faso?
Why does Forced Child Labour Continue Unabated in the 21st century? More importantly, why does this dehumanizing practice remain socially acceptable in some regions? Considering the recent row over Bloomberg Media's accusations of child labour in Fairtrade certified farms in Burkina Faso, I believe we need to look at the bigger picture and ask two pertinent questions:

1) Why does forced child labour continue unabated in the 21st century?

2) What impact does Fair Trade have in Burkina Faso?

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Published by: Mitch Teberg on Jan 29, 2012
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08/06/2014

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Mitch Teberg, MAAssociateMember
Journey for Fair Trade:
The Need for Organic Fairtrade Cottonin Burkina Faso
26January, 2011Since December 15th, when Bloomberg wrote an article on forced child labour in Burkina Faso(
Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton
), there have been pressreleases, investigations and editorials with further information released about the journalist CamSimpson's investigation. Bloomberg's Editorial response to investigations by Limited Brands andFairtrade International came on Friday, January 14th. The following Monday I emailed FairtradeInternational:I am sure the new year is keeping you quite busy as you settle back in. Late last weekBloomberg published an editorial (
Child Labor for Victoria’s Secret Cotton Examined by U.S.
) in which they stick to their story and add a series of accusations and suggestionsagainst Fairtrade International. Based on the feedback I have been getting online, thishas been proving quite worrisome to many Fairtraders on all sides of the supply chain.Having reviewed the editorial and what they provide as evidence, I would like to suggesta possible platform to air your response. I would like to interview one or two of you,and/or people inBurkina Faso to provide insight to what is going on there. It seems inthe editorial that the waters get a bit murky due to accepted cultural norms and attitudes.I would like to offer an interview for posting on my blog as a means to clear things up asyou see fit if this is acceptable to you.
 
Mitch Teberg, MAAssociateMember
On January 19th, I received a reply from Reykia Fick, Media Relations Manager of FairtradeInternational:Thanksso much for getting in touch and for your support on this and other Fairtradeissues. We’ve decided not to do a rebuttal to the latest Bloomberg article at this time.Our primary concern now is the safety, well-being and right to privacy of the people andthe community featured in the article. The situation in Burkina Faso is complex and thestory brings attention to a serious problem. Our work on this case continues, but evenmore important is ensuring that all actors work to address the broader issue of ‘enfantsconfies.’ We remain committed to tackling the wider issue of child labour in Burkina Fasoand are finalizing the details of an intensive training and awareness programme, whichwill be rolled out among farmers and communities there. We feel that tocomment moreextensively on specific details in the latest Bloomberg article at this time could invitefurther attention toward the people and communities involved, which may not be in their best interest.Clearly, Fairtrade International has chosen tomove on and address the issue in Burkina Fasorather than spending the time and effort in exchanging words with Bloomberg Media.Throughout this process I have been reaching out to other Fair Trade advocates and thoseknowledgeable of the multiple environments in which Fair Trade is engaged. Admittedly, tryingto remain neutral in this case is difficult and it appears that Rodney North of Equal Exchangestated it best in an email exchange we had concerning this issue,
"We have a he said/she said situation.The journalist has said X, and the parties (included The Limited Brands) have said “anti-X”. Both parties, of course, have a very strong vested interest in sticking to their version." 
I am not certain closure with a definitive decision on "who is rightand who is wrong" is possiblein this case. However, this exchange does bring up two issues. Firstly, forced child labour associally acceptable in impoverished countries; and secondly, the rationale for Fair Trade to beengaged with communities where child labour is known to exist. Let's be clear-forced childlabour is slavery, and to engage with these communities is risky, but essential to bring aboutchange.
 
Mitch Teberg, MAAssociateMember
Let's take a moment to look at the big picture andformulate a Basic Question to identify what factorscontribute to the continuation of slavery in the 21stcentury. The Basic Question I propose is:
Why does the use of forced child labour continue to persist unabated inimpoverished countries such as BurkinaFaso
To analyze this it helps to look at this from a Rights-Based Perspective; to recognize poverty asinjustice and this includes marginalization, discrimination, and exploitation as central causes of poverty. Marginalization, discrimination, and exploitation have historical roots that extend backto the days of colonialism. To be colonized meant subjugation to foreign rulers, outrightexploitation of natural resources and labor with second-class citizenship for much of the non-Western world. Entire continents were usurped of their riches through colonial policies aimed toexpedite the transfer of local wealth to Western coffers and raw materials to feed the expansivegrowth of Western industries. Today the term globalization has come to replace colonization;and detrimental government policies of the West to replace gunboat diplomacy.

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