The handmade carpet industry has long been associated with child exploitation. So how can you be sure your next carpet purchase doesn’t bear the imprints of tiny fingers?
Making a difference: Rugmark, a nonprofit organization working to end child labor, certifies carpets made under safe and fair working conditions while helping former child weavers reclaim their childhood. Many Rugmark-certified rugs are also made of natural wool and dyed with botanical pigments.
From loom to classroom
More than 2,300 child carpet workers have been rescued in India, Nepal, and Pakistan and placed in schools since Rugmark was launched in 1994.
Forced into bonded labor to pay off her father’s debt, fourteen-year-old Shanti Lama from Nepal is among those helped by Rugmark. Once illiterate, she now reads at the fifth grade level. Now reunited with her family, she wants to be a dance teacher when she grows up.
Rugmark’s program spans from remote villages in South Asia to home furnishings stores across North America and Europe. At the production level, loom and factory owners agree to make carpets free of child labor, submitting themselves to random, unannounced inspections. The designers and importers with whom they work are then given the right to put the Rugmark label on their carpets. These licensees pay a small royalty back to Rugmark, and the proceeds underwrite its advocacy, education, and rehabilitation programs.
Look for the label
Rugmark-certified carpets can be purchased at nearly 300 stores. Rugmark.org contains a list of retailers by state: (866) 784-6275.