Out of economic desperation, Sunita’s family sold her to a thekedar (broker) for the equivalent of $2.50. She was made to work 18 hours a day as a carpet weaver and domestic servant to pay off the “loan.” RugMark rescued her in 2005, and from then on Sunita began to live and study at the RugMark rehabilitation center. Now 12, she dreams of teaching Nepali and English.
In the time since RugMark’s founding in 1994, the number of children working as weavers in South Asia has been reduced from 1 million to 300,000. And while this is a great improvement, there is still much left to be done. Part of what makes child labor so intractable is its invisibility. RugMark endeavors to bring light to this issue through Faces of Freedom, the traveling photo exhibition. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Faces of Freedom is part of RugMark’s Most Beautiful Rug campaign to end exploitative child labor in the handmade rug industry.
In this collection of images, award winning photographer U. Roberto Romano brings consumers, interior designers and industry entrepreneurs into the hidden loom sheds in South Asia, showing them the poignant faces of bonded carpet weavers as well as those liberated from the looms by RugMark. The stories of Sunita and many others like her remind viewers of their impact on the lives of children across the world, and of the real life difference made by RugMark.
In February, the collection debuted in its first major public venue at the Senate Russell Building Rotunda, in conjunction with a standing-room-only event to honor Senator Harkin. The images have since appeared at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater, George Washington University, and Robin Gray Design, among other venues, bringing the estimated total number of viewers to date to nearly 13,000, not including online viewers totaling over 3,000.
Over the next several months the exhibition will reach thousands more viewers as it travels all over the U.S.; the tour will be highlighted by a month-long display at UNICEF House in New York City. We welcome you to view the full image collection and tour schedule online at www.FacesofFreedom.RugMark.org.
Your support makes it possible for RugMark to share the stories of these “carpet kids,” underscoring the opportunity for each of us to make meaningful difference by choosing child-labor-free. With every ethical RugMark certified purchase, resources are being redirected back to impoverished weaving communities in South Asia, educating thousands of children and sending an important. Thank you for your help in bringing children from carpet looms to classrooms.
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GoodWeave Executive Director