Bitter Sweet History - aspects of the British Slave Trade

Fair Trade: The Rugmark Case Study

Laxmi's story

After a landslide destroyed her home, the 6 year old went to work in a carpet factory in Nepal. In 1997, Rugmark inspectors found Laxmi working in a Nepali carpet factory. She told her rescuers she had to work to survive. Her family had migrated from their village to Kathmandu after a landslide wiped out their home. Her mother, who usually worked the looms, was ill. Her father, a labourer who squandered his small earnings on alcohol was seldom home. When he was, he abused his wife and children.


Unable to read at the time of her rescue, Laxmi became an eager student. A poster with her image appeared in showrooms and stores across North America to represent the many children who work illegally in South Asia.


Today Laxmi is 15 years old and one of the top students in her 10th grade class. She hopes to continue to high school and eventually become a social worker, so that she can help other children escape desperate situations and pursue fulfilling lives.


  Facts on Child Labour in the Handmade Carpet Industry

  • The handmade carpet industry exploits nearly 300,000 children in South Asia
  • Children aged 4 to 14 are kidnapped or trafficked, then sold into debt bondage or forced labour.
  • They suffer malnutrition, impaired vision and deformities from sitting long hours in cramped loom sheds.
  • They suffer breathing diseases from inhaling wool fibres and wounds from using sharp tools.

Rugs are among South Asia’s top export products and employ many poor people. If child exploitation happens in the rug industry, there is little chance to stop this in other industries.


We gratefully acknowledge Free the Slaves and Rugmark (see website links below) for permission to reproduce this article.

Download the text from this page as a Word document, which also includes a case study on Slave Rescue, by clicking on the Worksheet link below.

See where Laxmi worked in a carpet factory, in Nepal.»

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