GoodWeave USA

GoodWeave's mission is to end exploitative child labor in the carpet industry and to offer educational opportunities to children in weaving communities. The GoodWeave label is your best assurance that no child labor was used in the manufacture of a rug. The organization was founded on this premise: If enough people demand certified child-labor-free rugs, manufacturers will only employ adult artisans and the exploitation of children in the industry will end.
Apr 3, 2008

In Honor of Iqbal

There are stories that offer hope, bring tears, shed light, teach lessons… but only a few start movements. This is the story of Iqbal Masih and the birth of RugMark.

Each spring, RugMark commemorates the tragic murder of Iqbal Masih, an indentured carpet weaver who ultimately became the face of the child labor movement. On this 13th anniversary of Iqbal’s death, RugMark would like to announce a new initiative to continue his legacy.

RugMark is assembling a photo exhibition of South Asia’s ‘carpet kids' to tour the U.S. later this year. Iqbal put a human face on an otherwise anonymous issue. With your support, RugMark will traverse the country introducing more faces and making certain that companies and consumers face up to this problem. Iqbal is woven into all we do year-round and has now inspired the “Faces of Freedom” exhibit.

You may know the story of how four year-old Iqbal was sold into slavery in Pakistan for a loan the equivalent of $12. He was forced to weave rugs for six years, 14 hours-a-day, six days-a-week. Despite his relentless toil, the debt grew to 13,000 rupees or $260, an insurmountable sum in a country where 13% of the population live on less than $1 a day.

Iqbal was rescued at the age of 10. Having spent half of his life malnourished and in a cramped loom shed, Iqbal was only four feet tall and a mere 60 pounds. The most dramatic part of this story is actually what happened next. Iqbal became the ambassador of child slaves and traveled to the U.S. and Europe, where the rugs children make are bought and sold.

Lauded as a hero by the human rights community and fellow children still toiling on carpet looms, Iqbal was also perceived as a threat to a certain industry faction. On Easter Sunday in April 1995, Iqbal was murdered while riding his bike in his hometown. Over a decade later, the case remains unsolved. It is widely held that he was targeted by the so-called 'carpet mafia’ for his highly visible role.

RugMark was born in the wake of Iqbal’s death and is dedicated to ending child labor, one industry at a time. In addition to inspecting carpet manufacturing facilities and offering educational alternatives to those rescued, RugMark confronts the invisibility of child labor. It is difficult to see small children hidden in dark loom sheds, their sweat and tears absorbed by the yarn. RugMark, with your support, shines a light on this inhumane practice for all consumers to see and creates a transparent trading system so shoppers know the responsible option.

With "The Most Beautiful Rug" campaign, RugMark USA ensures that no one can claim ignorance of this injustice. Since its debut, RugMark’s market share has doubled, touching the lives of 10,000 child weavers, generating $250,000 from certified rug sales to support social programs in artisan communities, harnessing the power of 75,000 consumers, and partnering with almost 50 companies to build ethical supply chains.

On this anniversary, let me thank you again for supporting RugMark's work to end child labor in the way that Iqbal began - by reaching consumers. Please stay tuned to RugMark's website for more information on the "Faces of Freedom" exhibit.

Dec 18, 2007

Picturing an End to Child Labor

Laxmi in 2000
Laxmi in 2000

Nearly a decade ago, a single photograph captured the plight of one million ‘carpet kids’ and helped launch RugMark USA’s campaign to end child labor. Rescued nine year-old Laxmi Shrestha, with her stoic yet innocent expression, was seen in stores and homes throughout North America. Laxmi came to symbolize the tragic consequences when children are forced into an adult world.

Today, I’d like to paint a very different, but equally powerful, picture for you. RugMark has reduced child exploitation in South Asia’s handmade rug industry by two-thirds. As for RugMark’s poster child, Laxmi is now 16 and enrolled in college. On a visit to Kathmandu this summer, I found Laxmi laughing with fellow students at the Laboratory School, one of Nepal’s foremost academic institutions. I wanted to share this recent photograph with you (link below).

To transition the remaining 300,000 children from carpet loom to classroom, RugMark USA unrolled "The Most Beautiful Rug" consumer awareness campaign in 2006. A snapshot of the campaign after one year shows the face of RugMark is indeed changing. From the pages of "Good Housekeeping" to "Fast Company", the websites of PBS to "Interior Design", the channels of CNN to "Conscious Living", RugMark has brought unprecedented attention to the problem and galvanized millions of shoppers to be part of the solution.

In 2007, RugMark was labeled by one prominent design blog as “amazingly proactive,” hailed by a humanitarian magazine for “winning the battle to end child labor” and thanked by a former child weaver for giving her “a new birth in this world.”

The burgeoning consumer demand for RugMark rugs has brought results overseas – childhood was restored to 124 children like Laxmi already this year. And we’re just getting started. Fifteen percent of imported handmade rugs could carry the RugMark® label in the next decade, effectively eliminating child labor from South Asian looms. Unfortunately, child slavery is far from gone. Last month, a story broke that showed the world the urgency and importance of RugMark’s work. An investigation in India by "The Observer" uncovered a sweatshop, including workers as young as 10, making clothes for GapKids. In the aftermath, activists and experts have repeatedly cited RugMark’s program as a model to which the fashion industry and others should look.

Next year, RugMark USA plans to share its expertise with the child labor and wider fair trade movements. While still young ourselves, RugMark, like Laxmi, has grown up and our organization has valuable insight about how to build an equitable global marketplace that can transform individual lives. In 2008, RugMark will also work to expand its program – reaching even more children trafficked throughout Asia’s carpet belt. In order to do this, RugMark needs increased philanthropic support.

This season of giving, I ask you to make a contribution to move our mission forward and to honor how far we’ve come. Your investment will help RugMark to unroll "The Most Beautiful Rug" in new markets, share our model and rescue and educate more children.

Laxmi is a testament to what RugMark has achieved in under 10 years. With your support, imagine the picture we can create in the next decade.

Laxmi Today
Laxmi Today


Aug 15, 2007

Facing Child Labor

In April, the true beauty behind "The Most Beautiful Rug" campaign was revealed when two former child weavers from Nepal came to the U.S. to tell American audiences their stories.

Thousands came face-to-face with child labor and millions more heard their collective voice when Sanita Lama, Jaya Bhandari and RugMark Executive Director Nina Smith were interviewed on BBC’s "The World" and "Voice of America." Over the course of the 10 days, Sanita and Jaya had a poignant visit to the Statue of Liberty, saw the ocean for the first time, and most importantly, blossomed into spokespeople for the modern day anti-slavery movement.


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