It was hard to discern Manju’s age. Her hands and feet were gnarled, bearing the ravages of what looked to be decades of a hardscrabble life. But her face belonged to that of a little girl.
When Manju was discovered in Kathmandu, Nepal, working in a carpet factory, she was just 11 years old, one of an estimated 215 million child laborers around the world. She had been taken from her remote village by a broker who provided her family a loan in exchange for her work.
GoodWeave, a charity in Washington that works to end child labor in the carpet industries of Afghanistan, India, and Nepal, rescued Manju from the factory floor, a task it has performed for more than 10,600 children.
The group was founded in 1994 by Kailash Satyarthi, a human-rights activist in New Delhi. He mounted dangerous raids on factories and reunited kidnapped child workers with their families.
But he realized he couldn’t stop the problem just with rescue efforts, so he decided he needed to find a way to persuade companies that it was bad business to hire children.
To that end, GoodWeave persuades retailers throughout North America and Europe to promise to sell only carpets that are made by workers who are at least 14, and offers merchants a certification logo to show consumers they meet that standard and others. For example, rug sellers must ensure that their suppliers and exporters don’t hire child workers.
Retailers pay a fee for the label, and that helps support GoodWeave’s surprise factory inspections, like the one that found Manju.
The licensing fee, which is a half a percent of a carpet’s retail price, also covers other efforts to aid child workers, such as helping to get education and housing for those the charity believes wouldn’t be safe returning to their families.
“We have to work in the marketplace because it’s profits that speak to the people who are perpetuating this problem,” says Nina Smith, executive director of GoodWeave USA.
GoodWeave operates on an annual budget of about $3-million, with 75 percent of that total provided by foundations (including a recent $1-million grant from Google.org). Just under 20 percent is revenue generated from GoodWeave’s licensing fees, and small sums are donated by individuals and government. The charity is now considering expanding to China, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey.