Do you know about the efforts of GoodWeave?
We’ve been aware of their work in the rug industry for more than ten years. One of the showrooms we turn to for beautiful custom handmade area rugs from all over the world has supported their work and, in turn, has helped Associates III become more conscious of GoodWeave’s efforts to end the illegal use and abuse of young children in the production of rugs.
At the heart of the GoodWeave (GW) certification is the prevention and rehabilitation of child labor. GW works to end child labor in the carpet industry and extend educational opportunities to them. To date, GW has focused its efforts on India and Nepal with extraordinary results; the number of “carpet kids” in South Asia has dropped from an estimated 1 million to 250,000. Now they’re expanding their model to Afghanistan – where a third of all elementary school-aged children are put to work.
Since 1994 GW has focused on its no-child-labor requirement; however, their newly expanded certification standard now adds mandates to protect adults from abusive labor conditions, such as forced, bonded and exploitative labor. It also includes environmental criteria, such as managing run-off from dyeing and washing. The new standard is in response to consumers, industry and weavers who wish to see more benefits associated with one label.
This broader scope of criteria improves GW’s effectiveness in addressing root causes of child labor. The lack of secure income for adults and the exploitation of children are interrelated; fair work for adults translates into families having their own children in school, support for mothers through daycare availability, and can help break the cycle of poverty.
The newly written standard is organized into seven principles:
First, no child labor under 15 years of age is allowed, and under 18’s work must be monitored and recorded to meet legal requirements.
2 through 5 are a set of principles relating to working conditions for adults:
No forced or bonded labor is allowed. Freedom of association and collective bargaining are recognized. No discrimination is practiced. Decent working conditions are respected.
Principle 6 addresses environmental issues: negative environmental impacts of production are to be identified and minimized, as well as potentially harmful chemicals, materials and processes through Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and effluent testing. Each rug producer is required to work with GW to develop a plan for improving environmental impacts over time and, in turn, GW will collaborate with producers to the extent possible to identify appropriate environmental measures for different types and sizes of production facilities.
And last, principle 7 requires transparency and adherence to local regulations in business practices. Rug producers must demonstrate compliance with the standard’s social and environmental criteria by cooperating with GW’s monitoring and inspections system, including registering all production sites, providing necessary documentation during inspections, allowing inspectors access to production sites for unannounced inspections, and allowing them to conduct confidential interviews with workers.
As before, the standard continues to cover rug making processes in factory, cottage industry and home work situations from receipt of raw material until the finished product, including all sub-contracted processes, such as weaving, washing and dyeing.
Next time you contemplate buying an area rug, ask how the rug was made as well as by who and where it was made. While certification programs like Fair Trade ban child labor in their standards, the GW program is the only one offering remediation in the form of rescue, rehabilitation and education for any child being exploited on a loom. And when you hear that 215 million children ages 5-17 are engaged in child labor in Asia alone, you realize how important a need there is to protect young children from losing their childhood and provide them with access to education.
— Debbie Hindman