Gallery: Is Victoria’s “Secret” Child Cotton Laborers in Africa?

Victoria's Secret, child labor, human rights, organic cotton, fair trade, fair-trade fashion, fair-trade clothing, fair-trade cotton, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

The halo on Victoria’s Secret is looking a tad askew after a report alleged that malnourished, underaged West African children picked the cotton used in some of its undergarments, including a number labeled as fair trade and organic. In a startling exposé by Bloomberg News, reporter Cam Simpson documents the heart-wrenching story of 13-year-old Clarisse Kambire, who works on an organic-cotton farm in Burkina Faso under a program designed to financially empower women and enable more children to attend school. But Kambire’s reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Beaten and verbally abused, she labors in the fields on bare hands and feet to harvest tiny tufts of fiber that are sent to factories in India and Sri Lanka to be fashioned into leopard-print hip-hugger panties and lacy fishnet thongs.

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4 Responses to “Is Victoria’s “Secret” Child Cotton Laborers in Africa?”

  1. TejasDawg says:

    People need to be more understanding of the context of rural agriculture. Small farms need lots of hands to harvest crops where expensive machinery is not available. These kids were likely not ‘forced’ to harvest cotton. There is likely some sort of incentive for them helping, be it food, money or something else. Additionally, these experiences provide an invaluable learning experience to these children. They learn about farming, hard work, and the importance of education. Keeping them off the farm is a mistake and will lead them into the urban chaos which often leads to drug/sex trade and other degenerative life styles. Keep the kids on the farm! Let them learn from experience and capitalize on opportunity. These models and Victoria Secret should be proud to support these farmers, their families, and even the children helping with the harvest. This is what life on our planet is like, lets stop pretending kids don’t need work.

  2. Tabuism says:

    Any company that usese child labour will never see a penny from me !

  3. Scott Poynton (@Scottpoynton) says:

    Guys, it’s simple. You’ve got to get out in the bush and look deeply into your supply chain yourselves or get someone with experience to do it for you. This is the same problem that Nestlé had with its palm oil when Greenpeace attacked it – it simply hadn’t gone right out to the farm to know exactly where it’s palm oil was coming from. Victoria’s Secret has good Values, don’t outsource their delivery to a certification scheme – this will happen time and again. After Values, you need Transparency to know exactly where your raw materials come from and then you need Transformation to help your suppliers change to meet your Values.

    TFT can help

    Scott Poynton

  4. Michael Zelmer says:

    Following its own investigation of the claims made by Bloomberg of child labour, Fairtrade International released its response today.

    It can be found on the front page of (or directly at In particular, it refutes the claims that the person featured in the articles was involved in cotton production at all (Fairtrade certified or otherwise) and that she was under the age of 18. It also raises serious concerns regarding the journalist’s methods.

    Nevertheless, it should be noted that no system can guarantee that a product is 100% child labour free. However, the Fairtrade system has standards against it, an audit-based monitoring system to catch it if it occurs, and clear protocols on what to do if it does that focus first on the safety of any at-risk children and second on mitigating the risk of it happening again.

    Michael Zelmer
    Fairtrade Canada

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