September 2014, Syrdarya Region

February 11, 2016
Conversation between a teacher, who was pregnant with a school official in September 2015, when the official told her she had to pick cotton


A school teacher:


“I have heard that it is illegal to force people to go and collect cotton. But you do not leave me alone. Even knowing about my situation, you force me and other pregnant teachers to pick cotton. You are a woman yourself, you know that it is dangerous for a pregnant woman to bend down the whole time. Why don’t you tell the authorities that there is a number of pregnant women in the group, who cannot collect cotton, and therefore we cannot fulfill the plan?”


The response of the head teacher of the school:


“Who told you that cotton harvesting is forced labour? You are a teacher with a higher education degree, how dare you say that? Don’t you understand the policy regarding the cotton? This is nothing new for you.


If you do not collect cotton, the students won’t do either. Who will pick it then? I understand that you are pregnant, but we do not force you to pick the cotton yourself. Hire someone instead of you. Let your husband pick it or you.


Today you say that you are pregnant, tomorrow another one will say that he is sick, the third one will say that he is too old. Our director is also a woman. She attends the meetings in the hokimiat (local administration) in the evenings, together with hundreds of men. I have also attended such meetings several times. Eeeh, if you knew what kind of abuses they have to sustain at these meetings. The director is sitting and trembling there from fear for hours. She is even ready to buy cotton to fulfill the plan imposed on us. Do you think she takes the money for her own pocket? All the money is spent on cotton.”