Reading about Gap Inc's decision to withdraw clothes made with Indian child labor reminded me of an item we shared with the SAJA network in April 2006 - long before SAJAforum existed. It's about the effort to fight child labor in Indian-made carpets through the efforts of the Rugmark nonprofit organization. I am reposting the item below, so you can see some of the contacts - they might be useful for those of you interested in this topic. Please note this is from 18 months ago, so some of the contacts may have changed. Read on and post your comments below.
Earlier on SAJAforum:
From April 6, 2006
STORY IDEA: RugMark and former child laborers on US speaking tour
From SAJA E-mail Lists @ http://www.saja.org
Folks: RugMark, the India and US org that fights to bring child-labor-free carpets to the US has sent us the following materials about a US tour by RugMark founder Kailash Satyarthi, RugMark USA Executive Director Nina Smith and Jaya Bhandari and Sanita Lama, two former child workers rescued by RugMark. Please pass onto others who might be able to cover this - and/or non-journos who'd like to attend the various events.
1) Press release on the tour -- if anyone wants to schedule interviews, contact information is there.
2) An invite to the Odegard event in NYC. Though there is a ticket price for this event (and only this event), members of the press can receive passes. They need to rsvp in advance, though.
3) A one-pager with background on all of the tour events. Since your networks probably go beyond NYC, I thought you might want this since it also includes Boston, DC, Miami and two other events in NYC.
Editors Note: If you are interested in meeting Jaya Bhandari and Sanita Lama during the course of their tour, please call Julie Jacobs at 212.579.9071 to arrange an interview - or e-mail JacobsPR@nyc.rr.com
From: Massa Cressall
1. PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Julie Jacobs
TWO FORMER CHILD LABORERS FROM NEPAL TO SHARE THEIR STORIES OF RESCUE
AND RENEWAL ON FOUR-CITY U.S. TOUR
Tour Sponsored by RugMark; Organization Works to End Illegal Child Labor
in the Carpet Industry in India, Nepal and Pakistan
WASHINGTON D.C., March 13 - The average day for an American eight-year-old is
likely to include video games and hours in front of a computer. Half a world
away Jaya Bhandari and Sanita Lama led a different life: they worked illegally
as carpet weavers, spending hours in Kathmandu rug factories making pennies a
day. Jaya and Sanita were fortunate enough to have been rescued from the looms
by RugMark inspectors when they were eleven and ten respectively, placed in one
of RugMark's community-based rehabilitation centers, and later in school.
Today, the teenagers, now 19, are high school graduates and in a position to
help other children who have been enslaved by the carpet industry to reclaim
Established in 1994, RugMark works to end exploitive child labor in the carpet
industry in South Asia through loom and factory monitoring, consumer labeling,
and by offering education to former child weavers. The number of children
enslaved on the looms has dropped from one million to 300,000 over the past
Jaya Bhandari and Sanita Lama will be telling stories of their years as
"carpet kids" to college students, carpet importers and retailers, the
social investment community, donors and others, during an upcoming
four-city tour in the U.S. Tour dates and locations are:
* April 10 Boston
* April 11-13 New York
* April 15 Washington DC
* April 16-17 Miami
"Jaya and Sanita's visit will allow hundreds of people in the U.S. to come
face-to-face with an otherwise anonymous issue," said Nina Smith, Executive
Director, RugMark Foundation USA. "The gulf between children working illegally
on carpet looms in South Asia and many of our own children here in the States
is extreme and practically impossible to overcome. In some small way, this tour
will help close the gap and build understanding."
Jaya and Sanita's tour coincides with the 12th anniversary of the murder
of Iqbal Masih, an indentured carpet weaver who ultimately became the
spokesperson of the child labor movement. Iqbal's devotion to the
struggle of other child slaves after his own six years of grueling labor
made him a hero in the global human rights community. Jaya and Sanita
will continue to carry the community's message, helping to influence the
U.S. market to demand child-labor-free rugs.
To that end, RugMark recently launched The Most Beautiful Rug, a
national consumer awareness campaign designed to reduce, and ultimately
eliminate, illegal child labor in the handmade rug industry. The
campaign goal is to increase the market share of RugMark certified rugs
from one percent to seven percent over three years. The certification
program is integral to RugMark's mission; it recruits carpet producers
in India, Nepal and Pakistan to make rugs free of illegal child labor
and recruits importers in Europe and North America to sell those child
labor-free rugs. By agreeing to adhere to RugMark's strict no child
labor guidelines, and by permitting random inspections of carpet looms,
manufacturers receive the right to put the RugMark label on their
carpets. The label offers the best possible assurance that children were
not employed in the making of a rug. It also verifies that a portion of
the carpet price is contributed to the rehabilitation and education of
former child weavers.
Ultimately, RugMark hopes to achieve 15% market share by 2012, which
according to RugMark estimates, is the tipping point to completely
eliminate child labor from South Asia's handmade rug industry. Over
this period, every gained percentage point in market share will equate
to a projected 750 children rescued from the workplace and 1,000 more
who will be saved from entering the industry.
RugMark is an international nonprofit organization working to end
exploitative child labor in the carpet industry and give 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 A list of importers and retailers that sell RugMark
certified rugs is available at www.rugmark.org
# # #
2. INVITE TO ODEGARD EVENT - NYC
"Young Heroes:The Voices of RugMark Children"
Stephanie Odegard warmly invites you to join her for a benefit concert
with Marvin Hamlisch on the piano.
Perhaps best known for the Pulitzer Prize winning show A Chorus Line Mr.
Hamlisch, as a composer has won three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony
and three Golden Globe awards.
Stephanie Odegard and RugMark are delighted to bring this unique
fundraising event to Odegard's NewYork showroom.
Remarks of the evening will be presented by RugMark founder and Nobel Peace
Prize Nominee Kailash Satyarthi, RugMark USA Executive Director Nina Smith and
Jaya Bhandari and Sanita Lama, two former child workers rescued by RugMark.
Please join us
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
Mr. Hamlisch's performance begins at 7 p.m.
200 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1206
The New York Design Center
$100.00 minimum donation per person
To RSVP please return the enclosed card or reserve your space by calling
Odegard at 212.545.0069 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. CHILDREN'S TOUR BACKGROUND
YOUNG HEROES: VOICES OF RUGMARK CHILDREN
It began as a simple idea to bring 'the field' to Rugmark's U.S. community.
This spring, it will be a reality when former child workers from Nepal embark
on a four-city speaker tour.
The goals of this initiative are to bring The Most Beautiful Rug public
education campaign to life, educate people about child servitude and the human
impact of their purchasing habits, generate media attention, create a
prestigious opportunity for Rugmark students, and broaden Rugmark's base of
The tour is scheduled for April 10-17th and will make stops in Boston, New
York, Washington DC, and Miami. Each city will have several events to reach
different audiences - campus-based programs, brown bag lunches, and private
gatherings in individual homes and prominent area showrooms.
Schedule of Events
10 April, Tuesday - Boston
Walden Asset Management
1:00 - 2:15 PM
One Beacon Street, Boston MA
A meeting hosted by Walden to include socially-responsible investment
Tisch College event, Tufts University, Hillel Center
6:30 - 7:30 PM
200 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA
A campus event hosted by Tisch College. In attendance will be students,
alumni, Rugmark supporters and industry representatives.
11 April, Wednesday - New York
Odegard Showroom Benefit
6:00 - 9:00 PM
200 Lexington Avenue 12th Floor, NYC
An evening benefit featuring entertainment by Marvin Hamlisch, also in
attendance Rugmark's Founder, Kailash Satyarthi and Rugmark Nepal's Ajay
12 April, Thursday - New York
Industry Partner Breakfast
New York City
The New York Design Center
200 Lexington Avenue
Gathering of New York based industry members, select prospects and
media. In addition to sharing the children's story, the program will
focus on the current situation in Nepal and how it is impacting weaving
12 April, Thursday - New York
Domini Social Investments
5:30 - 8pm
36 Broadway, 7th Floor, NYC
A cocktail party hosted by Domini Social Investments to introduce
Rugmark Executive Director, founder and beneficiaries to institutional
investors and shareholder advocates.
15 April, Sunday - Washington
Washington DC Brunch
4907 Rockwood Parkway, Washington, DC
An informal brunch at the home of Rugmark advisor Maureen Orth,
including local supporters and donor prospects.
16 April, Monday - Miami
University of Miami Event, Storer Auditorium
5250 University Drive, Coral Gables, FL
A campus event in the University's School of Business and a private
reception hosted by President Donna Shalala to follow.
17 April, Tuesday - Miami
Odegard Showroom Benefit
3621 NE Miami Court, Miami, FL
An evening benefit and art auction in Odegard's showroom in Miami's
Jaya Bhandari and Sanita Lama are two former child weavers from Nepal
and powerful representatives of Rugmark's program and also of South
Asia's 'carpet kids.'
Jaya was raised by his mother in the Kailiai district of Western Nepal.
Alone, his mother was unable to adequately feed and support her four
children, and at 9 years old, Jay left his family to find work. After
several months working as a dishwasher in Nepaljung, he went to
Kathmandu where he began working in a carpet factory. Like Jaya, Sanita
began weaving carpets out of necessity, and in particular, to help her
family pay off their medical debts. Away from their families, Jaya and
Sanita worked long hours in poor conditions and suffered abuse.
Jaya and Sanita were found in carpet factories in Kathmandu and rescued
by Rugmark inspectors at age 11 and 10 respectively. They are now both
19 years-old and with Rugmark's continued support are students studying
at the 12th grade level. Sanita also serves as a part-time teacher with
Rugmak Nepal, facilitating non-formal education classes to adult carpet
We envision the program lasting anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on
the venue size and host's preferences. The program components include an
introduction by host, talk by Rugmark representative, 7 minute
multi-media presentation, comments from the children, and a question &
Massa B. Cressall
Tel: (202) 234-9050
Fax: (202) 347-4885