Children Are Picking The Cotton For Those Victoria’s Secret Thongs

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Victoria's Secret child labor painties

Whether you or your teenage daughter are fans of Victoria’s Secret, you may want to take a second glance at that panty drawer. A farm that produces cotton purchased by Victoria’s Secret last season has been using child laborers to pick the cotton for all those undies.

The lingerie company is hoping to get most of their cotton for this season’s garments from that same farm, Bloomberg reports. The National Federation of Burkina Cotton Producers, a partner to Victoria’s Secret, runs organic and fair trade programs in Burkina Faso, Africa. The UNPCB released a report in 2008 revealing that thousands of children were being used for labor on alleged organic and fair trade farms.

Victoria Secret tells Bloomberg that they never saw such a report. An executive for Victoria’s Secret parents company claims that they hardly purchase any cotton from Burkina Faso. Nevertheless, the vice president Tammy Roberts Myers says that they are “vigorously engaging with stakeholders to fully investigate this matter.”

The children on these farms are primarily foster children who are routinely starved, beaten, and most often work under horrendous conditions. Clarisse Kambire, 13 years old, came to work on the farm after her parents separated and she was abandoned there by an aunt. If lucky, she eats once a day, but the grueling work continues:

If she slows down from exhaustion, “he comes to beat me,” she says. He whips her across the back with the tree branch and shouts at her. “I cry,” she says, looking down as she speaks and rubbing the calluses on her hands.

Meanwhile, Victoria Secret made record sales in 2011 and in 2007, bought alleged organic and fair trade cotton to benefit female African farmers. In 2009, Victoria’s Secret developed a  “pesticide-free, 100 percent rain-fed cotton” lingerie line with a tag ensuring customers that they were benefiting lives in Africa.

While Victoria’s Secret “vigorously engages with its stakeholders,” I would suggest keeping these findings in mind for your holiday shopping. VS aren’t the only people who shell out lingerie for everyone from your niece to your sister. Keeping in mind the suffering of the children who helped create your comfy pesticide-free thongs when checking those names off your list could hit those stakeholders in the only language they understand: profits. Simply by putting your money where your values are, you could greatly impact the lives of many children, particularly those who live like Clarisse.

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