June 14, 2016
The Society is promoting ‘Rugmark’ carpets — hand-woven carpets, which carry a guarantee against the use of child labor — in preference to carpets made by children (some as young as four years of age).
‘Rugmark’. In August 1994, the Rugmark Foundation was registered in India by a consortium comprising the following business associations and human rights organizations: the Carpet Manufacturers’ Association Without Child Labor, the Indo-German Export Promotion Council, UNICEF India and our partners in the international anti-slavery movement, the South Asian Coalition on Children in Servitude. Exporters wishing to use the Rugmark have to register their looms with the Foundation and they will be checked by inspectors.
The ‘Rugmark’ label on hand-knotted carpets from India indicates that they have not been produced by child labor. The conditions for use of the Rugmark are that the exporters undertake:
It also requires regular school attendance by children working at home on family looms. The exporter will then be given the right to put a label on their carpets, which will carry a code enabling purchasers to check each carpet with the Foundation. Spot checks will be carried out on all looms registered with the Foundation to ensure they continue to operate without illegal child labor.
To date, 100 manufacturers in India and a few suppliers in Nepàl have applied for registration.
Unfortunately, some of the largest carpet exporters in India remain uncommitted, as they are waiting to see how the inspection scheme operates and the demand (if any) for Rugmark carpets from consumers.
To date, the campaign to free these children has not made much headway in Nepal and Pakistan. The South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, a coalition of more than fifty groups from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, has been campaigning for increased consumer awareness in the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and better regulation of the industry in their own countries.
‘Woolmark’. In addition to the Rugmark, there is the ‘Woolmark’ label of the International Wool Secretariat. The label is granted to manufacturers who agree to meet certain criteria set out by the International Wool Secretariat. Since October 1993, all Woolmark licensees producing hand-knotted carpets in India, Pakistan, Nepal, China and Morocco have to sign a declaration.
However, unlike the Rugmark, the International Wool Secretariat in London has informed us that there is no monitoring mechanism to ensure that products carrying the Woolmark are free from child labor.
The Anti-Slavery Society believes that the positive moves made by some manufacturers in India must be reinforced by purchasers in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand like you. If exporters who have stopped using child labor are perceived as having a marketing advantage over those who use child labor, then these other exporters will certainly follow — initially in India, and then in other countries.
Change will not come overnight. But the first target of the campaign, fully supported by the Anti-Slavery Society, is to put a stop to the exploitation of migrant child labor in the carpet industry and other dangerous industries. The international concern raised for these children gives the best chance of success.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are buying, or thinking of buying, a hand-knotted carpet ask the retailer for a guarantee that the carpet was not produced by exploited child labor. Ask them how they check on their suppliers.Ask your retailer whether they can supply carpets from the India bearing the Rugmark. Support carpet retailers who sell “Rugmark” carpets.