[Rug News andDesign sent this email to the trade on August 5, 2013]
If the consumer believes that child labor is an un-addressed issue, then your sales will suffer. The affluent consumer (over $100,000 in yearly income) is very sensitive to social issues. Every politician knows that you cannot easily refute factual fantasies. Neither can the rug industry. We can point with pride to the things we do for our workers. Since the consumer often cannot tell the difference between hand made and machine woven, we have shared this with everyone on our lists of vendors.
ABOUT THE PBS NEWSHOUR REPORT
In a ten minute segment on child labor in India that aired July 31st 2013, the most respected name in TV journalism, the PBS NewsHour, linked child labor in the bakery business, the embroidery business and the carpet business together.
In the the transcript of that piece, Fred De Sam Lazaro, who created the report, said that “Goodweave estimates the number of children working in South Asian rug looms is down to about a fourth (250,000 -ed) of the one million who once did.”
In the statement emailed to Rug News andDesign, Nina Smith, the Executive Director of GoodWeave USA, said about the NewsHour report: “But most importantly, it brought the millions of invisible children who toil on the looms out of the shadows and into the headlines.”
Also in the transcript, GoodWeave India estimated that there are 50 million child laborers in India. 250,000 is one half of one percent. Now 10 is 10 too many, but equating carpets to embroidery and baking (or brick making, diamond cutting, etc.) is stretching things.
The NewsHour story ended with an interview with a single child, now 14, rescued four years ago, who volunteered to work on carpet looms to help his family. Do we assume that he is the most recent rescue?
Look at the PBS NewsHour segment, read the transcript, read the statement emailed to Dasha Morgan, editor Rug News andDesign, then decide how each one of us can respond.
In the examples shown in the NewsHour report, the looms shown were hand loomed, Indo Nepalese/Tibetan, and hand tufted. From my perspective, the single event that reduced the number of children in the industry was the switch from cheap hand knotted to even cheaper hand tufted. Tufted is made in a more organized factory setting, it requires that the worker work standing up, and is much less likely to employ child labor.
The confusion between hand made and hand knotted continues (and machine woven as well).
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
It is my opinion that we cannot stop the “millions of invisible [and non-existent -ed] children” from being used as a fund raising tool.
We can, and at Rug News andDesign we have started to, document all of the positive steps that the industry, and individual manufacturers, are taking to create the appropriate environment for the weavers and their families.
We agree that inspection is a powerful tool, but we wonder why 500 subcontractors for 70 exporters (or 7 subcontractors per exporter on average) is an insurmountable inspection hurdle.
YOU CAN DO YOUR PART
Send this email, with the GoodWeave USA email and the video, to your suppliers, and ask them for their support in identifying positive non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as Care & Fair, Label-Step, Project Mala, Social Accountability International, and the Global Fund For Children, that we can write about to your benefit, and the benefit of the industry.
I welcome your comments and your help.
Visit www.rugnewsanddesign.com, and look at “knotted rugs” to see the past articles we have written on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and also see the videos we have posted on the same subject. On the machine woven side (About Rugs), see also “Sustainability”.
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Big news. Watch GoodWeave on PBS NewsHour.
Last night, PBS NewsHour aired a special segment on child labor in India and GoodWeave. The piece, Organization Fights to Unravel India’s Widespread Child Labor Abuses, brought our issue and our organization to the forefront, and for that, I am deeply proud. But most importantly, it brought the millions of invisible children who toil on looms out of the shadows and into the headlines.
I encourage all of you in the GoodWeave community to watch it: www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/july-dec13/india_07-31.html.
To get the story, special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro traveled to villages in eastern Uttar Pradesh, to what he called “the starting links of the long supply chain that leads to the export houses and the rug markets in the West.”
Using hidden cameras and cell phones, it didn’t take him long to find and document the problem. Raw footage from looms not monitored by GoodWeave showed: “clearly underage boys toiling alongside veterans, who themselves may have been here since they were boys.”
But the piece then points to GoodWeave’s solution, shows our inspection team in action, and cites the 120 participating importers in North America and Europe and 70 exporters in India. Of course, a favorite moment watching with my family last night was seeing the GoodWeave label flash across the screen for all 2.7 million viewers to see.
In the end, this is not just a news story. This is part of the solution. As our founder Kailash Satyarthi says in an interview for the piece about GoodWeave’s beginning: “I had a strong belief that once a person is sensitized towards child slavery, whether it could be carpet or shoes or apparels, you cannot limit that social concern and social motivation. And that worked.”
Last night, many people were sensitized towards child slavery. And now, you cannot limit that social concern. They will now look for the GoodWeave label. And hopefully, with your support, the next headline won’t start “Organization Fights…” rather “Organization Wins…”