RugMark is working to end illegal child labor in the carpet industry and to offer educational opportunities to children in South Asia.

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Child Labor in the Handmade Carpet Industry

The handmade carpet industry exploits nearly 300,000 children in South Asia and is a major “employer” of child labor. Children ages 4 to 14 are kidnapped or trafficked, then sold into debt bondage or forced labor. They are subject to malnutrition, impaired vision and deformities from sitting long hours in cramped loom sheds. They suffer respiratory diseases from inhaling wool fibers and wounds from using sharp tools.

Rugs are among South Asia’s top export products and a high-employment sector for the poor. If child exploitation is a norm in a country’s principle industry, there is little chance to break the cycle of extreme poverty.

Once trafficked into one form of labor, there is a strong likelihood that children may later be sold into another. For instance, a high percentage of girls from rural Nepal, recruited to work in carpet factories, are trafficked into the sex industry over the border in India.

(Helping Hands or Shackled Lives? Understanding Child Domestic Labour and Responses to It, ILO/IPEC, Geneva, June 2004)

In Pakistan, young children whose parents take money in advance for their work on carpet looms are victims of a debt-bondage system. The children are paid half the wages of older workers and are not allowed to leave the premises until the debt is fully paid. Older workers sexually abuse these children, about a quarter of whom are girls under the age of 15. (A Rapid Assessment of Bonded Labour in the Carpet Industry of Pakistan, International Labour Office, March 2004)

While these are grim statistics, there is hope. RugMark’s work is having a profound effect. Since 1995, RugMark has freed more than 3,000 children from looms and deterred thousands more from entering the work force. Educational programs funded by the sale of RugMark-certified rug and donations to RugMark help these children through rehabilitation, daycare, literacy, formal schooling and vocational training. In Nepal, child labor in carpet production has dropped from 11% in 1996 to 3% today. RugMark is credited for this success because the number of licensed factories it inspected in Nepal grew to 65%during those same years.

RugMark is making a difference in South Asia.

The end of child labor is possible and we need your help.