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RugMark Rolls Out Campaign to End Child Labor

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The Most Beautiful Rug public education campaign to create consumer demand for child-labor-free handmade rugs and to eradicate illegal child labor in the industry In a drive to end child labor in the South Asian carpet industry— where the child labor problem is prevalent— the nonprofit organization RugMark is rolling out The Most Beautiful Rug public education campaign. Set to launch in September, the campaign will create awareness about the illegal use of child labor in the industry, and benefits of buying a carpet or rug that is certified child-labor-free. One in six children in the world today works illegally and nearly 300,000 are exploited in the carpet industry to weave carpets for American and European homes. (Editor’s note: Campaign materials, ad slicks and photos are available now.) RugMark’s independent certification process and its individually numbered label found on the back of each rug indicates that no child labor was used in the weaving process and that a percentage of the purchase price funds rehabilitation and education for former child laborers. It is the only independent rug certification program of its kind. The premise of the campaign is simple, says Nina Smith, executive director of RugMark, “If U.S. consumers demand rugs made without the use of child labor, manufacturers will stop exploiting children.” Interior designers, rug designers and importers are joining the effort and looking at ways to ensure that all rugs are not only beautiful, but that they were also made by adults and not by exploited children. The challenge—and the rationale for the campaign—is that most people simply are not aware that many handmade rugs are made by exploited children who work long hours for little or no pay and miss the opportunity to go to school. The Most Beautiful Rug, RugMark’s campaign to end child labor, asserts that an imported rug made by exploited children is “ugly no matter what it looks like.” The national campaign, which will be launched in major design markets such as New York City and San Francisco, will run for three years and include outreach to consumers, interior designers, architects, retailers and the handmade rug industry. Campaign elements include print advertising, an editorial program including media outreach, a website (www.rugmark.org), industry and consumer events, educating consumers at point of sale, downloadable education materials to be used by the trade, and grassroots activities. “Child labor drives down adult wages and keeps entire communities in poverty,” Smith says. “Many children who work in carpet factories are abused, often sexually, and receive one meal a day. Many girls laborers try to escape and turn to a worse fate: prostitution.” According to Smith, only adult hands can weave the most beautiful patterns. A child learning the art of weaving is fine, as long as they are attending school and choose to learn the craft. The campaign is sponsored by the Skoll Foundation, Metropolis magazine, Dwell magazine, the Modern Luxury Publishing Group, and others. The award-winning firm Crispin, Porter + Bogusky has designed the ad campaign as a major pro-bono contribution. By increasing consumer demand and promoting responsible designers, importers and retailers, RugMark seeks to increase the market share of certified rugs and in doing so to change the industry norm. The campaign empowers consumers to take action by simply asking sales staff and interior designers for RugMark certified rugs. “If we’re successful, we’ll be able to say that we’ve literally wiped out child servitude from the rug industry,” says Smith. “This is achievable in just 10 years, but we need everyone to get behind us.” How RugMark Works To Prevent Illegal Child Labor: Since 1995, RugMark has helped to reduce the number of children working illegally as weavers in India, Nepal and Pakistan from one million to 300,000. To accomplish its mission, RugMark’s independent, child-labor-free certification label indicates that a handmade rug was made without illegal child labor. Random inspections ensure that manufacturers adhere to RugMark’s strict licensing requirements. The RugMark label also ensures that a portion of the purchase price helps to educate former child laborers. More than 3,500 children currently attend school with RugMark support. A list of importers and retailers that offer RugMark certified rugs is available at www.rugmark.org. The cost of certification is one half of one percent of the retail price of a rug. When children are found working illegally, they are given the opportunity to attend school instead of working. RugMark operates 13 schools and rehabilitation centers in weaving communities. One child whose life changed because of RugMark is Narayan Tiwari, from Kathmandu, Nepal. Now 15-years-old, Narayan was freed from the looms and sent to a school run by RugMark. Says Narayan: “I worked for about eight years as a child laborer in the carpet industry. Usually in a carpet factory, a child laborer works for about 14–15 hours a day…. They weave carpets, spin the wool, roll the thread, etc., but most of them aren’t paid in full for their work…. They are punished badly if they make any mistakes. So the situation for child laborers is miserable in carpet factories. RugMark is important for children working in the carpet industry. Because of Rugmark, now I have a pen in my hand instead of working tools, knowledge in mind and confidence towards life.” About RugMark RugMark is an international nonprofit organization working to end exploitative child labor in the carpet industry and offer educational opportunities to children in India, Nepal and Pakistan. The RugMark label offers the best assurance that no illegal child labor was used in the manufacture of a carpet or rug. For more information, please visit www.rugmark.org.

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