Child Labour in The Rug Industry
Throughout South Asia, nearly 300,000 children are forced to weave rugs for the highly profitable handmade rug industry. Many of them are victim to their family’s debts and are sent off to work in dreadful conditions as young as seven years old. Others were kidnapped or trafficked. These children suffer from malnutrition, impaired vision and breathing, sexual abuse and injuries from using dangerous tools.
So why have so many children found themselves in the workplace rather than at school? Few companies would actively ignore an instance of child labour in their factories- however many have such an unclear idea of their supply chain they’re unable to check every plant. This is a symptom of an increasing reliance on outsourcing, which is often in the form of cottage industry production. It is in facilities like this that 90% of the labourers Goodweave rehabilitates are found. Unfortunately, this issue is often combined with appallingly low wages and even debt bondage. Therefore, helping companies reach a stage of complete supply chain transparency is a priority for non-government organisations.
The Work of Goodweave
However, they realize that in order to fully break this cycle of child exploitation, extreme poverty must be tackled. It is due to the lack of secure incomes for parents that this is happened.
Therefore, GoodWeave has spent the last year focusing its standards, taking into account the labour conditions of adults in the weaving industry too. The new standard protects adults from abusive labor conditions, such as forced, bonded and exploitative labor. It also includes environmental criteria, such as managing run-off from dyeing and washing.
The new standard is organized into seven principles:
- No child labour.
- No forced or bonded labour.
- Freedom of association and collective bargaining are recognized.
- No discrimination.
- Decent working conditions for all adult workers (including health and safety, wages, hours).
- Negative environmental impacts of production must be identified and minimized.
- Business processes must be transparent and lawful.
Goodweave Success Stories
One of these children was eleven-year-old Sanju, from Rautahat in Nepal, who found herself responsible for paying off her father’s debt by working 16 hours days at the loom as well as cooking and cleaning for her manager. She was severely injured in the factory but had to keep working until GoodWeave inspectors discovered her last year, and brought to a sponsored rehabilitation centre. She now goes to school and is much happier, although still traumatised by some of her experiences.
Gulafsa is a former child labourer. She never finished second grade and although she is 16, until five months ago she was illiterate. This major step forward in her life can be attributed to the power of the C&A foundation. Gulafsa finally had access to education, and now takes part in classes every day at her workplace. She still works with her hands embroidering cushion covers, however the confidence and knowledge she has gained from her education has served her well. A perfect example of this was when Gulafsa noticed problem with her pay check. She was able to calculate the three days wages that were missing, and had felt assured she could confront her supervisor without risking her job. She says her education has made her ‘less ashamed to talk’.
Children in the weaving community of Afghanistan – Image courtesy of GoodWeave, copywrite U. Roberto Romano
Goodweave and Bazaar Velvet Rugs
The child workforce need someone to stand up for them. In the years since 2000, the progress in reducing child labour has been impressive, with figures dropping from 245 million to 168 million. However, with a dramatic decrease of government support, particularly from the US, this progress is now at risk of slowing.
Bazaar Velvet is a member of the GoodWeave organisation and only uses makers who are subject to their conditions and scrutiny. We believe the welfare of the community of weavers that produce our rugs must be protected. You can browse some of beautiful goodweave labeled rugs on our website, or find them in the Bazaar Velvet London rug showroom.
Hand-made rugs are gorgeous for a reason: they have been painstakingly designed and made by talented weavers. Do not allow those weavers to be mistreated and support GoodWeave.
Find our more about rug quality using our helpful Rug Guide