Next Tuesday marks the anniversary of International Labor Organization's Convention to tackle child labor, including carpet work— a day known as World Day against Child Labor.
“On World Day Against Child Labor, we honor 76 North American rug companies that have taken a stand against illegal and exploitative child labor by joining the GoodWeave certification program,” said Nina Smith, executive director of RugMark USA, the organization behind the GoodWeave program. “These companies have raised the bar for the rug industry and helped us to provide education and other opportunities for thousands of former child weavers. Today, as many as 250,000 children are still trapped in carpet work, but each new company that joins GoodWeave helps bring that number closer to zero.”
To commemorate the occasion, GoodWeave is partnering with premiere rug designer Odegard, Inc., whose Chicago showroom is hosting GoodWeave’s nationally touring Faces of Freedom photography exhibit. Odegard became GoodWeave’s first North American licensee in 1997. A special version of Faces of Freedom will also be on display at the U.S. Department of State for an international conference on “Working Together to Combat Child Labor” held June 8. The collection of photographs, taken by acclaimed documentary photographer U. Roberto Romano in South Asia, depicts both the horrors of child labor and the hopeful faces of children the GoodWeave program has saved from the looms.
The ILO estimates that some 165 million children between the ages of 5 and 14, including “carpet kids,” are involved in child labor. Despite laws prohibiting it, child labor is rampant in South Asia's handmade rug industry. Children as young as four are routinely sold and forced to work as many as 18 hours a day. These child weavers 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.
Through the support of GoodWeave’s industry partners, more than 3,600 children have been rescued from exploitation on carpet looms and offered rehabilitation, education, vocational training, and other services. Worldwide, 7.5 million rugs have been certified as child-labor-free since 1995. An estimated 1,500 retail outlets carry GoodWeave certified rugs in the U.S. and Canada alone.