Clarisse Kambire, 13

Clarisse Kambire, 13,

Childhood Lost

In Burkina Faso, where child labor is endemic, paying premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has created fresh incentives for exploitation. A program there has attracted subsistence farmers who say they can't grow "ethically sourced'' cotton without forcing children into their fields. Bloomberg News spent more than six weeks reporting in West Africa to capture the plight of Clarisse Kambire, a 13 year old who is kept of out of school, malnourished and beaten. This is her story.

Clarisse Kambire, Victoria's Secret Child-Labor Cotton Picker - Bloomberg

Clarisse’s Cotton

“Made with 20 percent organic fibers from Burkina Faso,” reads a stamp on that garment, purchased in October.

Forced labor and child labor aren’t new to African farms. Clarisse’s cotton, the product of both, is supposed to be different. It’s certified as organic and fair trade, and so should be free of such practices.

Planted when Clarisse was 12, all of Burkina Faso’s organic crop from last season was bought by Victoria’s Secret (LTD), according to Georges Guebre, leader of the country’s organic and fair- trade program, and Tobias Meier, head of fair trade for Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, a Zurich-based development organization that set up the program and has helped market the cotton to global buyers. Meier says Victoria’s Secret also was expected to get most of this season’s organic harvest.

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