In 2008 RugMark inspectors in India and Nepal rescued and rehabilitated over 116 enslaved child carpet weavers, bringing the total number of rescued children to over 3,200. Every single child is offered an opportunity to reunite with their families and to get an education. RugMark ensures that students have the necessary financial and social support to stay in the classroom and off the carpet looms.
Nina Smith, RugMark USA Executive Director, recently returned from a trip to India and Nepal where she visited RugMark’s schools and was able to talk with many of the former child laborers and children of adult weavers who are studying with RugMark’s support.
Laxmi Shresta was one such student. A RugMark inspector rescued her from a carpet factory at the age of six and she has since flourished as a student in Nepal. Now 18, Laxmi is the pride of her family, studying hotel management, speaking fluent English and offering hope to her mother and three sisters. Laxmi's family can barely scrape together the 1,500 rupees (equivalent to $20) to rent one dilapidated room for their home. Laxmi's education will break the cycle of extreme poverty that has kept her family living on the edge. Laxmi's mother said that "RugMark is Laxmi's second family". RugMark continues to offer hope of a better future to more children like Laxmi each year.
While much progress has been made in Nepal and India, the number of children rescued from factories and enrolled in school remains directly connected to how many companies and consumers in rug purchasing countries, such as the U.S., care about the issue. RugMark USA recently launched a traveling photo exhibition, Faces of Freedom, in order to drive home this message. A collection of 50 images captured by photo documentarian and filmmaker U. Roberto Romano, the exhibition takes you behind the looms and inside the carpet factories of South Asia. The photos also connect you to the positive, real-life difference made by RugMark and its partners.
In 2006, RugMark inspectors in India, Nepal and Pakistan identified and freed 144 child carpet weavers, bringing the total number of rescued children to over 3,000. Every boy and girl found working is offered the opportunity to reunite with their families and get an education. RugMark’s role is to ensure these students have the support needed to stay in the classroom and off the carpet loom and feel empowered to weave their own futures.
A glimpse into the lives of two former carpet slaves tells the true story of what RugMark, with your support, has made possible. Punil and Bhola are both from Bihar, India’s poorest state where nearly 50 percent live below the poverty line and illiteracy and infant mortality rates soar. Devastating poverty and extreme corruption have made Bihar the primary source point for trafficked children who end up working in various industries in India, including carpet weaving.
Punil and Bhola fell victim to this system of modern-day slavery and worked as rug laborers until RugMark inspectors found them in 1997 and 1998, respectively. They were both admitted to the Balashraya Center for Child Laborers, and after completing their formal education and vocational training, Punil and Bhola qualified for instructor openings in RugMark’s tailoring training program.
While much progress has been made over the past year in India, the number of children rescued from rug factories and enrolled in schools is directly related to how many Western companies and consumers care about the issue. RugMark USA's office is leading a new campaign to educate shoppers to look for the RugMark label and pressuring companies to join the certification program.
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