victoria's secret child laborWhich makes it feel less lacy and more awful, doesn’t it?

To be fair, we don’t know exactly where you buy your underwear, but if it’s Victoria’s Secret, then, yes, child labor! Bloomberg reports on Burkina Faso program that deals in cotton, fibers from which are then fashioned into Victoria’s Secret garments:

In Burkina Faso, where child labor is endemic to the production of its chief crop export, paying lucrative premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has — perversely — created fresh incentives for exploitation. The program has attracted subsistence farmers who say they don’t have the resources to grow fair-trade cotton without violating a central principle of the movement: forcing other people’s children into their fields.

An executive for Victoria’s Secret’s parent company says the amount of cotton it buys from Burkina Faso is minimal, but it takes the child-labor allegations seriously.

The most disturbing part is almost certainly hearing the testimony from one of the 13 year old child laborers who recounts:

“I’m starting to think about how [the foreman] will shout at me and beat me again,” she said… Preparing the field was even worse. Clarisse helped dig more than 500 rows with only her muscles and a hoe, substituting for the ox and the plow the farmer can’t afford. If she’s slow, Kamboule whips her with a tree branch.

A study conducted by Helvetas in 2008 indicated that hundreds, if not thousands of children, were vulnerable to exploitation in the Burkina Faso program, but Victoria’s secret executives claim they never saw that report. This seems ironic given that in the Victoria’s Secret aim in purchasing from Burkina Faso was to purchase sustainable raw materials and benefit female African farmers. The thongs made from the cotton came with a booklet bearing the slogan “Good for women, good for the children who depend on them.” The “good for children” slogan has since been eliminated.