Rena Gashumba, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer, ILO Communication and Public Information (DCOMM)
It’s 8:30 am, a school day and there are 20 ten-year olds waiting excitedly for the game to begin. Their chatter echoes across the high-walled school gymnasium. They ooh and aah, and point at an enormous colourful carpet laid out in front of them.
Chief of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch
Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Uzbekistan—over three million people—take part in the country’s cotton harvest each year. Some two thirds of them are women.
The ILO has been monitoring the cotton harvest for child labour since 2013. In 2015, it began monitoring the harvest for forced labour and child labour as part of an agreement with the World Bank.
Usman Bilal, a former child labourer, is an MBA student and child-labour activist.
When I was young, I lived in my village in Pakistan with my father, mother, three brothers and four sisters. My father was a carpenter and he worked hard to build a bright future for his family, but his income was too low to make this possible.
So, in 2001, when I was just ten, my parents sent me far away, to my maternal uncle’s workshop in the village of Bhagwal Awan, in the district of Sialkot, to make surgical instruments. I didn’t want to go, I wanted to stay in school and study, but I had no choice.