The Arabic word (al) qutn refers to a soft substance, which is the origin of the English word cotton; the most important and earliest farmed plant around the world. Its natural fiber grows to a boll around its seeds during long sunny days without frost for at least 160 days. The plant is surprisingly related to species such as hibiscus, okra and marshmallows.
The history of cotton dates back to the Old World (Afro-Eurasia) where it’s believed to be first cultivated 7,000 years ago. Today it’s incorporated into our daily lives by use of towels, sheets, clothes, denim, underwear, shoe strings, T-shirts, coffee filters, fishing nets, cotton paper, cooking oil and much more. The largest producers today of cotton are China and India, bringing in respectively 34 million and 24 million bales annually (a bale of cotton weighs about 500 pounds).
However, the history of cotton has not always passed by us with glory, especially not in the United States where cotton was called “the fiber of slavery”. It became the “King” in the south before and during the civil war as a result of high demand from European nations. Nothing those days, could limit the cotton production BUT the need of labor. Therefore, together with the invention of gin, a machine that separates the seeds from the cotton, the demand of labor skyrocketed and cotton gin operators started to hire boys and girls of age of 10 to 12 years to work with the machinery. This resulted in additional 11 million immigrants introduced to slavery for cotton business in the US.
The use of forced labor, is one of the worst human rights violation that is not jet in the past. It’s still an ongoing issue that affects millions of people. UNICEF recently reported Uzbekistan’s cotton sector as one of the world’s only country that maintains a governmental supported system of forced labor that includes children. Poor fed, unpaid school children some as young as 7 years old, harvest cotton under close supervision by Uzbek authorities. Children work up to 11 hours a day and suffer from heatstroke, and infectious diseases from poor conditions meanwhile parents that pull their children back from school are put under official pressure and public humiliation.
Therefore I urge you to read more and get involved in the cottoncampaign.
The Time Is Now to Urge the Uzbek Government to Accept ILO Monitoring
The beautiful plant Cotton, (al) qutn.