Sunday, 1 January 2017

Only cotton

Dear Reader,



                                                                               Children Picking Cotton

Hundreds and thousands of children are thought to be involved in picking and processing cotton around the world.  Many are kept out of school, work in dangerous conditions, and some are not even paid and sometimes work ten or twelve hours a day.  Their parents stop them from going to school because they need them in the fields, where farmers like to employ children because they have nimble fingers and are the same height as the plants they are picking.  When it rains they are given plastic sheets, which they put on their heads, and then carry on working.  Apparently the girls work much harder than the boys who run around and, if beaten, they stop work.  Boys' behaviour then seems pretty universal!  While pressure from the West is making a difference to the cotton supply chain in India, there is not the same pressure from within the country.  Rampant poverty, high inflation, unemployment, and a lack of regulation of the industry make it difficult to see how things will change.  I have never felt guilty about wearing cotton clothes, but knowing now what I have just  learnt, perhaps I should.

                                                                             *

Only Cotton

In the Southern Punjab
the sun scorches, the insects hum,
small pieces of cotton dust
fill the air,
whirl, suffocate, poison.
Aruni and Paloma, ten and twelve,
bend and pick, bend and pick,
hour after hour.
Scratches on their arms
scab and bleed,
their heads ache,
their vision blurs,
their drinking water canisters
contaminated with lethal spray.
At dusk they crawl home.
At dawn, they start another day.

Mrs Anne Hudson-Berry
selects a cool cotton dress
adorns herself,
hails a taxi,
has lunch at the Ritz.

                                                                         *

Very best wishes for 2017, Patricia



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the horrors of child labour. We all need to think about what we buy for pennies has cost in human lives. Your poem says it all so well. Xx