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Understanding Supply Chains; The Key to Ending Child Labor 

Veteran GoodWeave International board member Edward Millard spent two days in the field with our staff inspectors, visiting project sites for our work in the carpet industry and for a new apparel pilot with C&A Foundation. Mr. Millard drove for long hours on bumpy and crowded roads, stopping in towns and villages in western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states. He entered places where most people do not go – back alleys and other hidden production sites – where his presence was as much a novelty as it would be for any western buyer or government official. Mr. Millard is director of strategic partnerships for Rainforest Alliance and a leader for more than 30 years in building sustainable enterprise.


Understanding Supply Chains; The Key to Ending Child Labor

Edward MillardCertification schemes are sometimes criticized for being “tick-box exercises”, a reference to the checklists used by auditors to record compliance with a standard when they visit production units. No matter how thorough the actual standard is, its effectiveness in upgrading practices depends on the quality of the inspection process. A trained and qualified auditor verifies and crosschecks what she or he learns from management and observes during the inspection visit by talking to staff, reviewing written records, and following up afterward regarding any doubts or concerns – such as checking on official records for the birth certificate of a young worker who may be underage. This thoroughness produces results that can be trusted. It makes clear to producers that employment practices and working conditions will be fully evaluated and problems cannot be covered over.

The town of Panipat is an important carpet producing center in the state of Haryana, two hours north of Delhi. It grew up about 25 years ago, when the government gave incentives to companies to kick start industries that would spur economic development and employment. A large number of factories produce rugs mainly for export, using different production methods – hand looms and mechanical looms for flat woven carpets; hand tufting and machine tufting for pile carpets.

Edward MillardGoodWeave India has a small office in Panipat, with a team of experienced auditors. Two of these, Avtar Singh and Ashok Yadav, accompanied me and other GoodWeave colleagues around Panipat on the second day of my visit. They told me that they spend an average of six hours undertaking an annual audit of a factory, ensuring that they obtain and verify all the information they need to evaluate compliance with the GoodWeave Standard. Moreover, they will come back three or four times during the year completely unannounced, to ensure that conditions remain satisfactory. That is not ticking boxes; it is doing the job with the thoroughness that major brands and retailers expect when they sign-up to the GoodWeave certification system.

But that is in fact only the start of the inspection process. GoodWeave has 37 active licensee exporters managing factories in Panipat. It is unusual to find cases of child labor in them. These factories are subject to inspection by the Indian government, other labor certification schemes that international customers use, such as SA8000, and sometimes by the customers directly. Where child labor is found is in the 367 other production units that supply rugs to the 37 exporters, over and above their factory production. These units are hidden away in the back streets and never visited during the other inspections. The unique value of the GoodWeave system is to identify and locate these units and include them in the audit report.

Avtar, Ashok and the other inspectors achieve this in three ways. First, they crosscheck production records against sales and demonstrate to the exporter that they know that most of the production is occurring outside the factory. Then they sit down with the exporter to determine where these other units are. Finally, with the same discipline of verifying information that they bring to the factory inspection, they talk to people, walking around the streets and visiting houses where production takes place, to build up a complete picture of an exporter’s supply chain. They often identify production units that have not been disclosed to them.

Edward MillardWe visited a number of these so-called second and third tier workshops – third tier if they are supplying to another intermediary between them and the exporter. Working conditions are not good. You immediately notice the lack of light and ventilation. Washroom facilities are poor and there are no places where workers can take their breaks and lunches. The GoodWeave Standard incorporates criteria on working conditions, beyond the absence of any child, forced or bonded labor. These criteria enable the inspectors to point out the improvements that are required and will soon become part of the official audit. One unit we visited had recently established an extractor fan to improve the flow of fresh air. Such improvements would not happen had GoodWeave not found the workshop and brought it into the inspection system.

It is this ability to understand how the carpet supply chain works and to build a robust auditing system that covers all the seen and unseen parts that make the GoodWeave certification so valuable. The week before my visit, the auditors found three cases of child labor in these backstreet workshops. That’s three less children being deprived of school and a reminder to the carpet industry in Panipat that GoodWeave is effective in finding out what it may not want to reveal.

 

 

Born Not To Be Seen, By Edward Millard 

Veteran GoodWeave International board member Edward Millard spent two days in the field with our staff inspectors, visiting project sites for our work in the carpet industry and for a new apparel pilot with C&A Foundation. Mr. Millard drove for long hours on bumpy and crowded roads, stopping in towns and villages in western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states. He entered places where most people do not go – back alleys and other hidden production sites – where his presence was as much a novelty as it would be for any western buyer or government official. Mr. Millard is director of strategic partnerships for Rainforest Alliance and a leader for more than 30 years in building sustainable enterprise.


Born Not To Be Seen

The accident that affects the large majority of us most in life is where and when we are born. The values and financial means of our parents, and the culture and social structures of the society largely define our access to education, health services and job opportunities. Millions of poor families in India put their children to work because they haven’t themselves experienced the value of education and because they need the money their children can earn to help feed the family.

I joined the GoodWeave International board because I admire not just its commitment to creating a better future for children, but also its skill in finding them deep down in companies’ supply chains, where they are often intentionally hidden. GoodWeave achieves its success in India through a local team that knows how to build trust with manufacturers, traders and community leaders and gradually lift the veil on the production units that supply – through a network of intermediaries – to many brands that are household names in the USA and Europe.

Edward MillardThis year, GoodWeave India began working with a new group: home workers in the apparel industry. In Kanwara village in Uttar Pradesh, 75 percent of the 462 households make intricate bead embroidery that will embellish dresses, scarves, jackets, belts, purses and bags sold into the export market. As Manoj Bhatt, who leads GoodWeave in India, points out, where India can compete with China is in its hand work. These bead decorations are made by mostly young women, working at home, who are given the beads and the pattern by a contractor, who works for a buying agent hired by an exporter. The exporters don’t come to Kanwara. The women don’t know what happens to their beautiful work when the contractor collects it. They are just invisible units of production.

Edward MillardHomeworking provides vital income for poor families. The problem is that it often prevents school-age children from receiving an education. With support from the C&A Foundation, and drawing on its knowledge and experience from the carpet sector, GoodWeave India has begun working in Kanwara and a larger nearby village called TilbBegumpur to identify children who are not attending school and sensitize the parents to the importance of allowing them to claim their universal right to education.

There are two schools in Kanwara, one government school and one private. The government school, which takes children from Grades 1 to 5, has 276 pupils enrolled but far fewer actually attend. It is not just the competition from homeworking that prevents them coming. The school lacks resources, classrooms and electricity -- it has a room with computers provided by the government but none have ever been used because there is usually no power. Families can’t afford to buy the books their children need. It’s a difficult problem to solve. Should GoodWeave try to address the shortfalls in the government school in order to get more children to attend? How can it convince the parents of the value of schooling if it will not prepare a child for a better job? The clear case for rescuing a child from a factory and ensuring her or his school enrollment, which GoodWeave does so successfully in the carpet industry, is maybe not so straightforward in the homeworker apparel sector.

Seven young men and women selected from the community based upon their interest and aptitude have been nominated as local facilitators. They are visiting every household, identifying the children not attending school, and building a picture of the supply chain that these homeworkers are selling into. Having visibility of the chain, and documenting who is working in it, is the first step in engaging the apparel industry to raise social and environmental standards.

GoodWeave will acquire the knowledge and build the consultation with the apparel industry that will enable it to develop an effective strategy for improving the lives of children, as it has in the carpet sector. It does not have all the answers yet, but one part of them will be to show that every worker in a company supply chain has a right to be seen.

 

 

Wholesaler Namaste Adds GoodWeave Label to Ethical Rugs 
News Release
May 4, 2016
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One Year Later 

One year ago, two powerful earthquakes rocked Nepal, destroying lives and livelihoods. This video is about what happened next. It shows the very tangible difference we have been able to make with the help of all GoodWeave supporters.

 

 

Nina Smith of GoodWeave International Wins Schwab Social Entrepreneur Award 2016 
News Release
April 13, 2016
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GoodWeave Update Following the Blockade Lifting on India-Nepal Border 

  • Last spring, Nepal suffered two devastating earthquakes. A blockade at the Indian border began in September, further destabilizing the country and its economy. Over the last few months Nepalese exports dropped by 25%, nearly 800,000 were pushed into extreme poverty and millions of children were out of school. Although in February the blockade was finally lifted, a fuel shortage persists.

  • With increased poverty and desperation in the aftermath of these events, the GoodWeave team is observing a surge in child labor on the looms, and remains concerned that vulnerable children will be at greater risk of exploitation.

  • In weaving communities, GoodWeave is enabling families to rebuild homes lost in the earthquakes and providing educational support to children of weavers.

  • The carpet industry continues to struggle with labor shortages, raw material costs and inability to meet demand. GoodWeave is providing a range of support to licensed producers as well.

  • On February 24th, President Obama signed legislation that gives duty-free status to Nepalese garments and textiles exported to the US – including some types of rugs. While handwoven wool rugs already receive such status, we are encouraged to see the U.S. lending a hand to help Nepal’s textile industry recover.

  • Amy Helfand of Amy Helfand Studio recently returned from her trip to Kathmandu where she visited Hamro Ghar, among other places. She shared with us her thoughts and impressions which, with her permission, we would like to share with you.

  • Read Amy's Notes from Kathmandu  

     

    Missive from Kathmandu, By Amy Helfand 

    Amy Helfand of Amy Helfand Studio has recently returned from her trip to Kathmandu where she visited GoodWeave's Hamro Ghar, among other places. She shared with us her thoughts and impressions which, with her permission, we would like to share with you.


    Dear GoodWeave team,

    Amy HelfandGreetings from Kathmandu! I visited the GoodWeave Nepal office and Hamro Ghar today. Lubha Neupane [Executive Director] gave me a rundown of current programs-- first tier priorities (child labor), second tier (more general bonded labor issues beyond the carpet industry), third tier (environmental) etc. It was disheartening to learn that since the earthquake and the fuel crisis, which is now in its 5th month, they have found more kids on looms than usual. I suppose that isn’t totally surprising as resources for all are in very short supply and many families are desperate.

    At Hamro Ghar there were 47 kids (9 girls and 38 boys) and they were still expecting about 9 more to return post-holidays, where they’d gone back to be with their families. So, pretty crowded. Lubha had mentioned before I arrived that any gifts—art supplies, sporting things and all of that—would be appreciated, as there have not been as many visitors to Hamro Ghar since the earthquake. The children were delighted to receive these gifts, but of course I wish I could have brought more.

    Amy Helfand at Hamro GharI was treated very kindly as an esteemed visitor, and despite everything, all seemed well. The kids were in lessons when we arrived, everything was very orderly and there was much enthusiasm for the work. All were bundled up (which is the case everywhere), though today was a beautiful day. Everyone says it’s colder than usual here right now.

    In general, things seem to be getting back to business in Kathmandu post-earthquake, though tourism is obviously down. It is January, though, not typically a huge tourist month. Streets are lively as ever—maybe a little less traffic but bustling and LOUD, in a very little car horn type of way. I’m staying in a residential area—Jawalakhel—and restaurants and cafes are busy with locals. It does seem filthier than ever—a big layer of dust and grime on every leaf of every plant, more people than usual wearing masks, etc. Must be partially because of the piles of rubble still around and the rebuilding going on. In the city, it is happening. Slowly, but you do see some progress in places. It must be the people who are not depending on government help or insurance settlements. I know from experience that even in a first world country that can take a very long time. As you probably know, the government has only very recently appointed a head for the reconstruction authority. There are also still many areas of people living in temporary shelters in open spaces—and many slapped together “buildings” of corrugated aluminium. So, progress for some...

    KathmanduRestaurants are using wood for cooking and there is basically no heat anywhere. Load shedding is up to about 14 hours a day. And there is no fuel to run generators. Did I mention it is COLD?! As they say, a good thing winter here is short, because it is hard to get anything done when you’re always cold. In terms of the carpet industry, the fuel crisis has caused manufacturers to have to use wood to fire the dye pots. Backwards on the environmental front. Wood is also in short supply…

    Still, people (carpet industry and otherwise) seem to be soldiering on, because what else can they do? It is a Nepali trait, it seems. Before I came, I had a couple of friends tell me that their recent visits had been different than pre-earthquake, not just in the landscape, but in the feeling of defeat they sensed. Being here, I don’t feel that so much as there is more of an inclination to discuss how disastrous the political situation has become relative to the incredible challenges the country faces. I mean, it is a challenging place on a regular day and anyone who lives here is accustomed to daily hardship of one sort or another. Currently it is just exponentially more difficult.

    Amy HelfandKathmandu, despite everything, is always full of serendipity and faith. More than one person has thanked ME for persevering and continuing to do business here because it makes a very concrete difference in weavers’ lives. I feel more motivated than ever to grow my business, because if I am more successful I will be creating more work here in Nepal. The message to my rug design colleagues needs to be that we must travel here, continue to work here and thus help the rebuilding process, both literally and figuratively. And the message to consumers should be very simply that now is an especially good time to buy rugs (GoodWeave certified, of course!) that are made in Nepal.

    I’m sure there’s more, but it’s getting late and I am sitting outside where I can get some wifi, bundled up and looking forward to 10pm when the electricity comes back on and my little heater blows some warm air my way!

    Magic amidst the chaos, as always.

    Amy

    www.amyhelfand.com  

     

    GoodWeave and Licensed Partners Strong at Trade Shows This Season 
    Press Release
    January 12, 2016
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    Our Top 8 Most Unforgettable Moments of 2015 
    Update
    December 17, 2015
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    A Moment and Message of Gratitude – All the Way from Mazar 
    Message
    November 25, 2015
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