You are what you wear! The true story about the clothing industry and Human Trafficking

Who are you wearing right now?

Published 20 November 2012  |  
Your immediate thought goes to the designer or the label such as David Jones, Rip Curl, Billabong, Target or some high expensive brand?

Don't you mean what brand are you wearing? No, I actually mean who are you wearing? Are you wearing slave labour? Did a slave make your clothes? That slave has a name, like 12 year old Trang from Vietnam, who you will meet a bit later on.

Not for Sale Campaign (NFS) a modern day abolitionist movement has just released their consumer report on the Apparel Industry Trend. They "rank 300 apparel brands on their efforts to address child and forced labor in their supply chains. It provides a picture of the practices of industry leaders, and calls out brands that fuel modern slavery through their negligence." You can find this report at

It shines a real light into the apparel industry or rather a bit of a dark cloud on some companies that are doing much.

According to NFS, there is an estimated 27- 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the CNN freedom project they estimate that14.2 million were exploited in industries such as construction and agriculture. That item of clothing that was on sale discounted at 80% for $10.00 represents countless numbers of people who are still in bondage and forced to work as slaves in countries around the world so that we can have clothes.

How important is that label to you now?

The report reveals that slave labour is involved in whole production line of apparels not just in some aspects of production. Every area of the development from the crops to the sowing of clothes has slaves.

For instance, the second largest exporter of cotton to the world is Uzbekistan. They produce some the finest and most sought after cotton. The government their forces the schools to close and children as young as 10 to work in the fields to pick cotton up to 70 hours a week for little to no pay. The farmers are then required to sell their cotton to the government for artificially low prices which keep the farmers in poverty. The government continues to profit from this and the cotton finds its way into our clothing.

Unfortunately this is not a one of instance. A BBC report found that in Indian cotton fields "as many as half a million children may work in India's cotton industry, making one third of the sector's cotton seeders, pickers, ginners and other workers children." That some of the girls are no more than 10 or 11 years old and are giving up education to work the fields. (

The cotton is picked and sent to factories around Asia where it is made into tread and weaved into patterns then eventually sown into clothes. In Vietnam, families are approached by human traffickers who promise that the children will have well-paying jobs and well looked after.

This is what was promised to 12 year Trang and his family. Trang told reporters "I felt so homesick, living in Saigon, who was taken by car from his small village of 35 households and brought to Saigon, where he worked cutting cloth and was regularly beaten." He did not know how many hours a day he had to work as he was illiterate and could not tell time. Children like Trang are forced to work making clothes bound for the world market. They work in horrible conditions, receive little to know pay and have no chance for an education. (

How can we make a difference? "Buycott"!

We have the power to end human trafficking. All we need to do is begin to "buycott." "A buycott is the opposite of a boycott; that is, an active campaign to buy the products or services of a particular company or country." (

Instead of not buying clothes which unless you live in the garden of Eden you can't do, Let's all band together and support companies that are valuing people over profit. Companies like Levi (which is not perfect) but they are stepping in the right direction. If all of us buycotted together and only bought clothes from a few retailers and let the other companies know why you are not shopping there any more, the other chains like Sketchers (who fares very poorly) would quickly hop on board too.

We have the power to change companies.

Before you go shopping next time and buy that discounted shirt, check out how that company rates. You can download an app from and see how your clothes rate Just scan their barcode and if a company is a D or less, instead of encouraging their practice of slave labour email the company and tell them that you are switching brands because of lack of policies and effort in putting an end to human trafficking.

Next time you are the store, have a look at what you are buying. Be aware that the slave industry has never been larger in history of mankind.

Are you supporting companies that are trying to stop human trafficking or are you endorsing it by not saying or doing anything?

Genevieve Wilson is married with two children who served with YWAM for eight years in Brisbane and now serving in mission in Canada as a modern day abolitionist.

Genevieve Wilson's previous articles may be viewed at


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