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Walk Free! – The Movement to End Modern Slavery

Walk Free activists globally are celebrating the news that Inditex (the parent company of international flagship retailer Zara) is joining the Responsible Sourcing Network’s cotton pledge to get slavery out of their clothes.

“Thousands of Walk Free activists from around the world took to the web, Facebook and Twitter calling on Zara to join over 90 brands and retailers pledging to boycott Uzbek cotton,” said Nick Grono, CEO of Walk Free.

The government of Uzbekistan has forced hundreds of thousands of their citizens, including children as young as ten to pick cotton. The Uzbek government combines these orders with threats and detains and tortures Uzbek activists seeking to investigate the situation, and refuses to allow the International Labor Organization (ILO) to monitor its cotton harvest.

To put an end to these human rights violations, over 90 of the world’s leading clothing brands and retailers, from Gucci to Wal-Mart, joined the Responsible Sourcing Network’s pledge to boycott cotton from Uzbekistan until the government stops using slavery and the ILO monitors and verifies it no longer exists.
“An estimated 16% of all government employees were forced to pick cotton in this year’s Uzbek cotton harvest, including teachers, doctors, nurses, military, and staff of government ministries,” said Matthew Fischer-Daly, Coordinator of the Cotton Campaign.

And despite the Uzbek government’s promise not to use children in the 2012 harvest, Uzbek activists reported seeing young children in the fields again this year.
“Up until Walk Free’s campaign, Inditex had refused to be part of the pledge. Inditex has now joined their industry peers. We congratulate the company on this significant step to ensure cotton picked in forced labour conditions is not in their supply chain,” said Nick Grono.

In a statement to Walk Free and the Responsible Sourcing Network, Inditex said, “Inditex acknowledges that the multi-stakeholder coalition that you are promoting will enhance awareness of the concern of the labour conditions in the harvest of cotton in Uzbekistan and would be pleased to support this initiative.”

“Walk Free members have done an incredible job of urging Inditex to join our pledge.  We commend Inditex on taking the first step to get slavery out of their clothes by making this commitment,” said Patricia Jurewicz, Director of Responsible Sourcing Network. Now we look forward to seeing the steps they will take to implement the pledge.”
A new campaign was launched today on the Walk Free site encouraging supporters to send “thank you” messages to Inditex, congratulating them on their commitment to the pledge and urging the company to take the next step toward implementation: http://www.walkfree.org/en/actions/ThankYouInditex

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