McALLEN, RGV – During the summer months, Jennifer Bryson Clark, founder of the Human Trafficking Symposium at South Texas College, has been working with the Human Welfare Association in India.
In an exclusive email interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Clark discussed the exploitation of carpet and silk weavers and the poor living conditions in their communities.
“Here in India I work with an organization called Human Welfare Association. The organization has many projects in the carpet belt sector and in the silk weaving community. I spend time going out to the villages near Varanasi and Bhadohi, where the weaving communities are. People here are exploited horribly,” Clark said.
Clark explained that the Human Welfare Association is an organization dedicated in improving the lives of women, handloom weavers, handicraft artisans, marginal farmers, landless, youth and children.
The associate professor of political science and chair of women’s studies at STC said she met a master weaver who worked his whole life weaving carpets. Clark also spoke on the poor conditions, health and wage theft of a weaver’s experience.
“He has been weaving carpets all this life since a child (over 50 years), yet still, if he is not paid for his work on time, he has no money to put food on the table for his family,” Clark said.
“Carpet weavers work in mud huts with little light, and often have pulmonary diseases from the carpet filaments they constantly breathe in. When the monsoon rains come it is hard to weave as some of the looms are outside. If they do not produce they do not get paid.”
Clark explains that weavers, including children workers, who are exploited by subcontractors in the industry, don’t see the profits of the expensive carpets we see in the West.
“The lion’s share of the profit goes to the distributors, exporters etc.,” Clark said. “The system is as follows: carpet weaver to subcontractor to exporter, to wholesaler/importer in the U.S. and finally the consumers in the west who pay a lot for the carpets, made by exploited workers and children who get paid so little.”
Weavers in India make approximately 5,000 rupees or $80 per carpet, but it also depends on the size and carpets can take up to a month to make.
“The weavers often ask how much do people pay for the carpets in the U.S.,” Clark said.