Sunday, December 18, 2011


Although I had decided not to blog for the rest of the year  because of the holidays, I was so moved by this story reported by Cam Simpson for bloomberg that I had to write about it. According to his article ( which I suggest you read) Victoria secret is using child labor in Africa specifically in Burkina Faso to make your lingerie. The story which broke two days ago is about a young girl Clarisse who is forced to work in a cotton farm. She is not allowed to go to school , she is malnouriched, she is beaten, and barely gets to sleep at night. Here is just a snipet of the article:

To understand the plight of Clarisse and others like her, Bloomberg News spent more than six weeks reporting in Burkina Faso, including interviewing Clarisse, her family, neighbors and leaders in her village. Her experiences were similar to those of six other children extensively interviewed by Bloomberg, such as an emaciated 12-year-old boy working in a nearby field.Interviews around the country with fair-trade growers, officers of fair-trade cooperatives and child-welfare officials reveal that there is little training and few if any safeguards against using children, even after dangers were uncovered by the 2008 report.
Victoria’s Secret, whose supermodel “Angels” helped it set record sales and profit in the third quarter of 2011, agreed in 2007 to a deal to buy fair-trade and organic cotton from Burkina Faso. The aim was to purchase sustainable raw materials and benefit female African farmers.In time for Valentine’s Day 2009, the retailer marketed a special lingerie line made from “pesticide-free, 100 percent rain-fed cotton” and sold with the claim that each purchase improved lives in the country.

Read the whole story here and here. This got me thinking about the fact that hundred of companies these days claim to be using fair trade. Are they really using fair trade? I am not sure if there is a committee in place to verify such claims but child labor is serious business. Its about time companies take responsibility for  the misery they are causing in poor countries. The goal is to create more jobs for the communities . Celebrities who flaunt their diamonds in our faces everyday do they care to know where it come from? These type of stories really move me because being an African girl myself I think its safe to say that this could have been me. There are millions of little girls like Clarisse suffering in farms around the world to support the west love of consumerism. I live in the west and  I love shopping at Victoria's secret  and learning about this makes me question about  how much are they hiding from us. Should this make me stop buying from them? yes would I stop buying  from them probably not and that is the honest truth. This is a never ending debate , so my question to you is would you still wear victoria's secret or any other clothes knowing that there is child suffering in Africa, or Asia to make it ?

Photo: Getty images


  1. Cynthia, we suffer coz our leaders allow it. Nothing to do with the west. We have the option of developing our communities but we dont, the leaders make good money from these days but still keep the people in penury.

  2. My Name is Ciaa lol. You are indeed right our leaders can do much more than they are right now.We have the Manpower.

  3. I really like Nelo's comment because it shows the real problem behind child labor. It is more about those "big ugly western industries" taking advantage of a system that is allowed to persist in a country. I come from Burkina Faso. It is important to point out the fact that those farmers are using children mostly because there is no choice. First they suffer from american subventions having an impact on the price of their production. They hardly are able to live from their work. Secondly what are they supposed to do with the children that they can't send to school with no money to pay the schoolfees, or the transport to get to a school that is most of the time very far from home...? They make them help in the farm.
    I don't approve of child labor. But it is our government's responsability to make sure that every child can go to school, without being a factor of improvishment for their parents. And if a child has to work, then there must be a system to oversee the conditions surrounding that work. If they are being exploited where they work, then , taking laws against it is also important (and those rules exist in Burkina Faso, although they are not being followed), but it is not enough.

  4. I have been in contact with Textile Exchange who work with the Organica and Fairtrade textile industry and cotton farmers who have investigated this issue showing it as incorrect, and I also have a letter from the on the ground cotton organisation in Burkina Faso written to the reporter stressing how this information is not only incorrect but as it is based on the wrong facts that it is destroying and tainting the good work that they do in b=Burkina Faso working with cotton farmers. Burkina Faso is one of the cotton producing countries in the world where cotton is one of the main exports for the country and so relied on not just by farmers but by the economy. Bloomberg were unprofessional to publish this type of information (note that bloomberg are also not a reputable source on this topic) and unfortunately for farmers who rely on the premium they receive from fairtrade cotton and organic farming in an industry where the USA still received unfair subsidies that African farmers do is a shame and can only taint the much needed work that is being done in such developing countries.

    Ganemotore is also right in the area that in the garment and textile industry at times children are found to be working so it is ahappening and is an issue but to show it in this content without the full information can be quite damaging and borders slander.

    At Africa Fashion Guide we network with particular cotton organisations in Africa and will be featuring them in 2012 to explain to ours and your readers more about this side of the industry.

    (We are in no way affiliated with Bloomberg, Victoria Secret or the cotton companies in Burkina Faso to note)

    Africa Fashion Guide is a blog that I formed to discuss the full supply chain of African fashion and textiles from the cotton industry and so this area is quite close to us.

    Please feel free to follow us at (relaunching as in Jan 2012)

    Jacqueline Shaw
    Founder - Africa Fashion Guide

  5. I am glad to hear that the reports are not correct. Thanks for your input Jacqueline.


Thank you all for taking the time to comment.