Project #1633

Rescue and educate "carpet kids" in South Asia

by GoodWeave International
A Collage of Children
A Collage of Children's Art by Rescued Child Weavers

With the support of our dedicated family of supporters and industry partners, we are transforming the US market to bring us nearer to the end of child labor in the South Asian handmade rug industry.

In 2009, we increased U.S. market share for rugs certified by us to have been made without illegal child labor from 3.2 to 4.2 percent. This 30 percent growth stands in encouraging contrast to the overall 41 percent decline in the U.S. market. This economically difficult year has proven the motivating strength of our certification, and reinforced our belief that consumers will make ethical choices in their purchasing when given information and opportunity.

Also in 2009, 14 locations welcomed our Faces of Freedom photograph exhibition, co-sponsored by the US Fund for UNICEF, and featuring images by renowned photographer and humanitarian U. Roberto Romano. The installations were visited by 18,000 attendees, with 10,000 on-line viewers to date. The tour culminated with year-end installations at the Miami International Airport and the World Bank, with introductory remarks by University of Miami President Donna Shalala and Nepal's Ambassador Shankar Sharma, respectively.

Our transformative effect on the market is preventing children from being exploited. In addition, we provide direct assistance on the ground. In 2009, our inspectors in Nepal rescued 83 child laborers from carpet looms, and 3,400 emancipated and at-risk children are enrolled in school under our educational sponsorships.

In 2010, our new GoodWeave certification launches, with a renewed outreach campaign: The GoodWeave Campaign to End Child Labor. Our GlobalGiving project will shortly be revised to reflect this reinvigorated campaign, and the expanded impact for which GoodWeave brings promise. Soon, in addition to providing your best assurance that a handmade rug is child-labor-free, the GoodWeave certification will include other humanitarian and environmental criteria, from living wages for of-age workers to environmental benchmarks for waste products.

We are also shifting the GlobalGiving country categorization to Nepal, where we inspect 50 percent of carpet production facilities, in order for donors and other interested individuals to readily find us. Our work in Nepal was recently exemplified by a visit paid to our Kathmandu rehabilitation center for rescued child weavers by the principal of Creative Matters, one of our devoted industry partners.

She spent a sunny afternoon on the center’s rooftop, teaching a painting class to 33 of our children. As she describes:

"I instructed them to paint themselves in a setting that they liked and, WOW, the results were amazing…One boy painted the RugMark house that they all currently live in, with him on the roof flying a kite…Gorgeous work. And they were so proud of themselves. I couldn't take enough pictures of them holding their artworks. It was absolutely lovely."

Photographs of these incredible children and their works of art are attached. In 2010 and beyond, we hope to do even more for them--and for the 250,000 remaining child laborers in South Asia's carpet industry.

A Child Models for Friends
A Child Models for Friends

For supporters of RugMark interested in knowing more about our 2008 financial statements, please feel free to browse through our recently completed audit.


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

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.

Please share your thoughts on this update in our comments section!

In 2008 RugMark inspectors in India and Nepal rescued and rehabilitated over 116 enslaved child carpet weavers, bringing the number of rescued children to over 3,200 since RugMark’s founding. 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’s 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. Her 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 United States, care about the issue. RugMark USA recently launched a travelling 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.

For supporters of RugMark interested in knowing more about our 2007 financial statements, please feel free to browse through our recently completed audit.


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Organization Information

GoodWeave International

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Nina Smith
GoodWeave Executive Director
Washington, DC United States

Funded Project!

Thanks to 99 donors like you, a total of $15,961 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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