So in addition to telling the world exactly which shade of pink is in style this spring, I also want to use this blog as a tool to help people make more informed decisions on products for their homes. It’s really easy to get caught up in a rug’s pattern or price and order it on the spot. It is really worth it to do just a little bit of research before you buy. It could save a child’s life. I want to start by giving you the low down on exactly what is going on in the rug industry and then introduce you to sources for rugs made by adults in fair trade, environmentally conscious work environments!
It is estimated that 126 MILLION children under the age of fourteen are currently engaged in what UNICEF refers to as “the worst forms of child labor”. This is child labor that puts the child’s safety and health at risk. FYI 126 million people is more than the populations of California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois combined. That means one out of every ten children living in the world today is engaged in harmful child labor. 300,000 of these children (that is the population of Cincinnati, Ohio) are employed in the hand-woven rug industries of India, Nepal, and Pakistan (International Labour Organization Study, 2010).
Children who work in the hand-woven rug industries of south asia often work twelve to eighteen hours per day, seven days per week. They are beaten for their mistakes and fed only a single meal per day. It is very common for children engaged in one form of child labor to be sold into another form of child labor. For example, many of the girls from rural Nepal, recruited for work in carpet factories are trafficked into the sex industry over the border in India (June 2004 United Nations Study).
While working in the rug industry, these children are subject to malnutrition, impaired vision, deformities from sitting long hours in cramped loom sheds, respiratory diseases from inhaling wool fibers and wounds from using sharp tools. Those working as bonded laborers have no chance to earn their freedom and frequently earn little or no money. The children who do earn money often never see any of it because it is intercepted by parents, relatives, or adults who have purchased the children.
Child labor actually makes poverty worse in developing countries. The more children who are forced to work, the fewer opportunities there are for adults to earn a living. By driving down adult wages and depriving children of education, child labor ensures that poverty will be passed down from generation to generation (ILO, United States Policies to Address Child Labor Globally 2010).
The good news is that due to global education and awareness through programs like GoodWeave, child labor in the hand-woven rug industry has dropped from 1 million children in 1995 to between 250,000 and 300,000 today. GoodWeave recruits carpet producers and importers to make and sell carpets without the use of illegal child labor. By agreeing to adhere to GoodWeave’s strict no-child-labor guidelines, permitting random inspections of carpet looms and paying associated license fees, producers receive the right to put the GoodWeave label on their carpets. The label provides the best possible assurance that children were not employed in the making of a rug. It also verifies that a portion of the carpet price is contributed to the rehabilitation and education of former child weavers. In North America, only licensed GoodWeave importers are legally permitted to sell carpets carrying the GoodWeave label. For more information, visit their website at www.goodweave.org.
There is another organization that is taking massive strides to improve the lives of people who produce goods in developing countries. World Of Good is an organization that helps small artisan producers improve their livelihoods by providing them with access to mainstream retail markets. It promotes fair trade, environmentally aware, and child-labor free production of consumer goods. The company has impacted more than 40,000 individual artisans in 70 countries by connecting them with millions of U.S. consumers. It was recently acquired by Ebay. It has a sister non-profit called the Good Development Organization which focuses on improving the lives of low-income women in the developing world. Its’ Fair Wage Guide is a free, open-source platform that calculates fair wages for artisans around the world and specific to their locations. Visit www.worldofgood.ebay.com to do some shopping that is good for people in developing countries around the globe!
I thought I’d pick a few of my favorite GoodWeave certified and World of Good rugs to share with you all. These were made by adults in developing countries, but still have a positively childlike quality to them!! The prices are really reasonable too.