After 15 years of combating child servitude in South Asia’s handmade carpet industry, the nonprofit organization GoodWeave® is expanding its operations internationally, beginning with Afghanistan. As in Nepal and India, GoodWeave will implement locally managed inspection and monitoring programs as well as social initiatives focused on children’s education in Afghanistan. Programs will help to improve the country’s access to international rug markets, reduce child labor and put more adults back to work. GoodWeave estimates the first child-labor-free certified rugs produced in Afghanistan to be available by early 2012.
The Afghan carpet industry represents a major opportunity for private sector growth in Afghanistan. While the carpet industry is Afghanistan’s largest legal employer, the country suffers from a 40 percent unemployment rate.
“The rug industry has the untapped potential to improve living conditions and stimulate economic development,” said Fazel M. Wasit, GoodWeave Afghanistan’s Country Director. “However, we must ensure that it does not negatively impact our country’s future by exploiting children in weaving communities, where the loss will be far greater than the expected benefits.”
Wasit previously served as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan, where he was responsible for developing markets for Afghanistan’s exports, including carpets. Wasit also has worked as Investment Promotion Director at the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency and held positions at the World Bank and Save the Children.
GoodWeave will fill a critical gap in programs serving the nation’s growing number of economically exploited children. According to UNICEF, a third of all elementary school-aged children work in Afghanistan, many of which have been sold into bonded labor, sexual exploitation and early marriage. However the Afghan government, a signatory of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights, is ill-equipped to curb the increasing trend of children being sold into child labor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
“In particular, children in the most common types of exploitative work, such as agriculture and carpet weaving, lack programs that meet their needs” in Afghanistan, according to the DOL’s 2009 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
Carpet making is largely concentrated in the northern and western provinces of Afghanistan; GoodWeave anticipates that its programs will be focused in the areas in and around Herat, Bamyan and Mazar-i-sharif. GoodWeave will work with a wide range of local partners in Afghanistan to ensure a sustainable, comprehensive approach to supporting weaving communities. In particular, GoodWeave will partner with grassroots non-governmental organizations to provide locally appropriate services for children found working on the looms and other at-risk kids in weaving regions. Kabir Bais, GoodWeave’s Program Coordinator for Afghanistan, will be responsible for the oversight of GoodWeave’s rehabilitation, social and educational programs. Bais previously worked for Hand in Hand Afghanistan, where he led a program to eradicate household poverty through capacity building and entrepreneurship.
“Despite the many difficulties the Afghan carpet industry has faced, during my recent trip to Kabul, I found a sense of optimism and unanimous support for the types of programs GoodWeave will bring to the region. GoodWeave will add significant value to the Afghan carpet industry, and provide essential support to a large but neglected segment of the population,” said Scott Welker, GoodWeave USA’s Director of Business Development.
GoodWeave works to end child labor in the handmade carpet industry by inspecting weaving looms and providing rehabilitation and education for former child weavers and other at-risk children. Through the sale and certification of nearly 8 million child-labor-free rugs worldwide, GoodWeave has helped reduced the number of child laborers in the rug industry from one million to 250,000. GoodWeave has provided more than 10,600 children in weaving communities with an education and other life-changing services. The GoodWeave label is the best assurance that no child labor was used in the making of a carpet or rug.