Passionate about demolishing child labour in the Asian rug industry

by Tania Wannenburg
Child labour in asia Jnl 3 15

One man in Asia who was and still is passionate about stopping child labour in the rug industry has been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

The 2014 Peace Prize has been jointly awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, founder of the GoodWeave international rug certification scheme which aims to end child labour in the rug industry. These two remarkable individuals have staked their lives on the belief that children, regardless of gender, geography, faith, caste or social circumstance, belong in classrooms.

“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Ghandi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” says Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland.

As Chairman of the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, Kailash fought against child slavery one factory at a time, one child at a time. He conducted rescue raids and liberated children who were enduring extreme violence, some brutally beaten if they ever tried to escape. Following one such raid, Kailash went to board a train home and saw dozens of children destined for the looms in the hands of middlemen. Arrested for causing a disturbance at the station, Kailash suddenly realised that this situation required a larger solution.

“Something else had to be done. Consumers have to be educated!” Satyarthi said in a 2013 interview. In addition to exposing the ugly truth behind beautiful rugs, Kailash set out to establish a certification system that would incentivise manufacturers to stop exploiting children as well as guide consumer purchases. Thus the RugMark label, later to become GoodWeave, was formed and the first certified carpets were exported from India in 1995.

Today, GoodWeave works in the top consumer capitals of the world and in the key rug-producing areas across Asia, expanding most recently to Afghanistan. In the two decades since Kailash’s arrest, the organisation has gone on to reduce the number of ‘rug kids’ in the region by two-thirds.

“So many of us were motivated to join this struggle to protect the lives of vulnerable children because of him,” says the head of GoodWeave, Nina Smith, based in Washington, USA. “This is an incredible moment for Kailash, for GoodWeave, for the children who have been forced to sacrifice their youth and their education for the benefit of business.”

As Kailash looks back on his journey, he remains optimistic that the GoodWeave labelling model can be used in other industries such as mining. “At the time we launched the certification, nobody had heard the phrases ‘corporate responsibility’ or ‘corporate accountability’”, he concludes. “But we have given voice to many initiatives in the world. And some of the basic ingredients of GoodWeave now are being used as great lessons by others. In the end, we can change the world in this way.”

Acknowledgment and thanks are given to http://content.yudu.com (Tomorrow’s Flooring) for the information contained in this article.

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