Picking Cotton in Central Asia

When you are picking cotton, you may be subjected to threats and abuse. If you were not willing to work in the fields, you could either hire someone to do it for you or pay the authority who oversaw the process - usually an administrator or supervisor. Parents who did not want their kids to pick cotton faced threats and even the threat of being recalled by the college to work in the fields. Women who were pregnant or who became ill while picking cotton were not exempt from this work.

Uzbek-German Forum

The Uzbek-German Forum for Picking Cotton has accused the government of using the death of a local activist to prevent workers from working in the cotton industry. However, a Uzbek newspaper reports that an 18-year-old farmer died of a heart attack on the cotton field in Shahrisabz, Osh province, in October 2012. According to local residents, Aziz Muyzinov collapsed while picking cotton and died of his heart attack. However, the death was not confirmed by Human Rights Watch as a heart attack.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is investigating the conditions under which Bangladesh's 1.5 million schoolchildren work in the cotton harvest. These children live in filthy conditions, miss school, and work daily for little or no pay. They are also often subject to harassment and abuse. A recent study of forced labor in cotton picking in Bangladesh found that up to half of all cotton workers suffer from serious injuries. Moreover, workers are required to harvest a certain number of kilograms of cotton per day, with the younger ones often having lower quotas.

World Bank

There are two reasons why the World Bank isn't picking cotton in Uzbekistan. The first is its stance against child labour and forced labor. Both are unacceptable in countries that earn over $1 billion a year from the cotton industry. Second, it's inhumane to use children in such a situation. But, as the report explains, the World Bank can't ignore the issue. So, it's stepping in to help the country end child labour in its cotton industry.


In Pakistan, the ILO has conducted a monitoring campaign to check if the country's cotton farmers are using forced and child labour. The organization's report to the government says 93 percent of cotton pickers participated in the campaign on their own accord. Human rights groups have welcomed the initiative. However, there is still a long way to go before the ILO is able to implement comprehensive reforms in the country. In the meantime, it remains critical to monitor the cotton harvest closely.

Memphis Works

The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange tells the story of how cotton is grown and processed in this Southern city. It is located on the legendary floor of the old Memphis Cotton Exchange, once the center of the cotton world. Visitors can see how cotton is processed and can be found in the cotton-producing fields of the region. There are computer terminals that let visitors listen to first-person accounts of life on the exchange floor. The museum includes old telephone booths with films and displays on cotton history and culture. The museum also displays blues music that has its roots in the cotton industry.

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