Makhlie should have been in a classroom days ago when the Uzbek school year began. Instead, she and her classmates were working in the cotton harvest in the fields of Uzbekistan where an accidental brush with a live electrical wire stopped her heart. She was only 16.
Makhlie should never have been in that field picking cotton, but the Uzbek government had “drafted” her, her classmates and citizens all over Uzbekistan to harvest cotton to fill quotas for suppliers like Daewoo International who then supply companies like the Target Corporation2.
It’s appalling that Target continues to do business with Daewoo, a company that accounts for about 20% of all cotton from Uzbekistan, creating much of the demand that drives modern slavery in the Uzbek cotton fields. Target needs to take responsibility and ensure that none of its revenue goes to a company that knowingly profits from slave labour.
Makhlie’s classmates are still in the cotton fields – alongside doctors, teachers, students and other Uzbek citizens forced by their own government to pick the cotton that may end up in products in our neighbourhood stores. They are not only at risk of accidents like Makhlie’s, they’re often threatened and beaten if they fall behind. Last year, 18-year-old Navruz Muyzinov died after reportedly being beaten to death by police officers when he left his assigned cotton field before meeting his quota.
Over 100 apparel companies (including Target) from all over the world have taken a stand against slavery in Uzbekistan, pledging to not buy slave-picked Uzbek cotton in an effort to push the Uzbek government to end the enslavement of its people. Now, they’re being called upon to follow up on their pledge by following the Daewoo Protocol – a series of steps companies need to take to eliminate slave-picked cotton from their supply chains.
We expect more from Target, a company that takes pride in holding the highest ethical standards for itself and for its business partners. So we called and asked them to sign on to the Daewoo Protocol. Target said they didn’t need to follow the Daewoo Protocol because they have a “No Uzbek Cotton” policy. But such a policy only works if you’re willing to enforce it.
If Target is truly serious about keeping slavery out of its stores, it needs to stop doing business with Daewoo by agreeing to implement the Daewoo Protocol and decline to do business with Daewoo until it takes serious steps to stop sourcing slave-picked Uzbek cotton.
Target needs to hear from as many people as possible – after you’ve taken action, will you take a moment and forward this email to 3 of your friends?
Thank you in advance for your help.
Debra, Nick, Mika, Jayde, Mich, Kyle, Sarah, Kamini, Kate, Jess and the Walk Free campaigns team
P.S. On Twitter? Follow us.
2 All mentions of “Target” and “Target Corporation” refer to the Target Corporation of 1000 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403.
Walk Free is a movement of people everywhere, fighting to end one of the world’s greatest evils: Modern slavery.