An estimated 250,000 children help make handmade carpets around the world. Children as young as five have been found tying knots by hand under arduous conditions that wreak havoc with the muscular-skeletal systems.

2014 World Day Against Child Labor Speech by Tom Harkin on the Senate Floor

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) delivered this speech on the Senate floor on  – June 12, 2014:

Mr. President, today, June 12, 2014, is the day set aside by the International Labor Organization to bring attention to the tragic predicament of millions of children across the globe who continue to be trapped in forced and abusive labor, often in extremely hazardous conditions.

So today is the World Day Against Child Labor. It is a day set aside every year globally for people to take a look at what is happening to kids around the globe who are forced into very abusive and exploitative labor conditions.

I think we should obviously think about these children more than just one day a year. We should think about them every day.

In my travels I have seen the scourge of forced and abusive child labor firsthand. Previously on the floor–going back for almost 20 years–I have spoken about how shocked I was to see the deplorable conditions under which some of these kids are forced to work. I have witnessed this personally in places from South Asia to Latin America, to Africa.

These pictures I have in the Chamber are, as a matter of fact, pictures I took myself. This picture was taken in a rug-making place in Kathmandu, Nepal. We were told there were no children being forced into this kind of labor, but under the cover of darkness, on a Sunday night–it was probably after about 8 o’clock in the evening–we were able to make entry into one of these back-alley places, and this is what we came across: young people, girls and boys, some as young as 8 years of age, working at these looms. I remind you, this is at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night. They lived in barracks. They were housed, kind of stacked in barracks, so they could not leave, they could not go anywhere, they could not see their families.

Here is another picture of some older girls. These are young teenage girls working at the same place. I did not take that picture because this is me in the picture. This picture was taken by Rosemary Gutierrez, my staff person.

So I witnessed this firsthand. Even though we were told no such thing existed, we found it did exist.

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GoodWeave and Your Carpet Choice Can Help Improve Child Labor Standards

Julia Moulden/Huffington Post

My column runs on Saturdays, so you’re likely reading this on the weekend. Are you barefoot, and luxuriating in soft carpeting under your toes as you relax? And did you know that you can influence whether the rugs you buy for your home and office are made with child labour or not?

Well, with a little help from the folks at GoodWeave, you can. GoodWeave certifies child-labour-free rugs and provides education and opportunities for children who are rescued as well as those at risk. Read more