In accordance with its internal Child Protection Policy and Procedures, Fairtrade International followed up on the allegations made in the Bloomberg article, “Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton,” published on 15 December 2011. We have found substantial contradictions in the facts presented in the article based on the information we have obtained from our field assessment.
Fairtrade International takes any allegations on the violation of human rights of the child very seriously. Following Cam Simpson’s allegations, we travelled with leading officials of UNPCB to the village of Benvar in Burkina Faso. We met the Fairtrade cotton producers and impacted children and families identified in the Bloomberg article. The aim of our trip was to conduct an assessment, develop a remediation process for impacted children, and provide support to UNPCB to further develop their actions plans to eliminate child labour and implement child protection measures.
Fairtrade conducted child safe interviews with the people identified in the article as children (persons below the age of 18). We can report that at the time of our interviews the “girl” and her family identified in the article were secure and safe. However, the information they gave us regarding the facts reported and the methods the journalist used concerns us greatly.
Most significantly, according to our information, the “girl” who featured prominently in the article is not 13 years old as reported. We have seen her birth certificate and corroborated her age with school records. She cannot accurately be described as a child as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (i.e., under 18 years old).
In addition, she is not involved in cotton growing and therefore is not participating in Fairtrade certified cotton production. Instead she works on a family-owned vegetable farm, growing locally consumed products for which there are no Fairtrade Standards nor Fairtrade certified producers in this region.