A beautiful hand-woven rug adds so much to a home. However, no one wants to know that people, especially children have suffered in its creation. Unfortunately the carpet weaving industry is not known for its 'ethical' practices – there have been questions about working conditions, forced labour, child labour, access to education and medical care. When we were looking at how we could bring both a beautiful and fair product to market we looked at both of these issues and what we could do to address them.
What are the problems in carpet weaving areas?
One of the largest carpet weaving areas of the world is located in Northern India, Pakistan and Nepal. Rug weaving has been a part of community tradition in these locations for centuries – nomadic sheepherders, spinning their wool, and then weaving it on looms into beautiful artisan rugs in traditional designs. Today, rug weaving on hand looms is the livelihood of 6.5 million families in India, the second biggest employment sector in the country so making sure that people are treated fairly at work can make a difference to many lives. Particularly as handloom weaving is often done within family groupings rather than in a factory space, monitoring to make sure safe and fair employment practices are being followed is more difficult. As a result, there have been complaints of illegal child labour, poor working conditions, and children not being able to access education or medical facilities.
Banning child labour outright isn't necessarily the right response either, a UNICEF report pointed out that 'Not all child labour is bad, because day-to-day child cooperation is for many families a necessity to survive.' But this is not enough of a reason to ignore poor working conditions, lack of access to basic human rights like education and doctors. The response has come from both industry and consumers. Industry partners like manufacturers, importers and retailers of hand-woven rugs are participating in and helping to fund accreditation schemes and not for profit organisations aimed at improving the lives of carpet weaving families.
What can be done to help? What is fair trade?
Every one of us can help, simply by checking before we purchase – is the rug that you are looking to buy helping to improve the lives of the carpet weavers? It's so simple to check the product labelling – just look for the stamp of organisations like Care & Fair or GoodWeave – organisations that are working on the ground in India to improve the lives and working conditions of carpet weaving families. By buying a rug endorsed by one of these third parties you know that some of the purchase price is going back into the community to build better lives.
The work of 'Care & Fair'
We have chosen to support ethical practices in carpet weaving areas by partnering with Care & Fair. Care & Fair was started in 1994 by a group of European companies that were involved in the carpet trade. They set themselves the goals of helping to improve living standards, educate companies that consumers care about where their rugs come from and who made them, as well as showing that social responsibility and leadership can come from within the industry. We are very proud to be associated and support Care & Fair – 85% of all the funds raised and donated are spent on meaningful project work. The Care & Fair organization believes strongly in the transformative power of educating children – ‘poverty is a cause of child labour, but child labour causes poverty.’ So creating access to education through schools is a top priority. Currently, they own and support 21 facilities across the carpet weaving regions. As a result, 3400 children have the opportunity to attend school at no cost to their families, another 60,000 people benefit from medical treatment and they have introduced the Women Empowerment Programs to help build futures.
This contribution makes an amazing difference to the region. One you support, every time you buy a Weave rug. Thanks for making your choice count.
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