As Label STEP began its work in Pakistan 25 years ago, the fair trade organization was confronted with diffidence and scepticism from domestic producers and exporters. In the meantime – not least through the long lasting, intensive support of dozens of schools for children of weaving families – the Pakistani carpet industry is now convinced that Label STEP represents and supports the interests of the entire sector.
Label STEP launched and established a constructive dialogue between all stakeholders in the carpet industry – earlier, there was practically no solution-oriented exchange between all supply chain actors. Label STEP also reminds the government of its responsibility in the carpet industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan.
A Weaver Empowerment project to enable rural carpet weavers to improve their living situations from their own power was expanded from its successful start in Punjab to the province of Sindh.
The pioneer project is the first such initiative in the informal sector, where most carpets are made at home. It organizes the women in local Weaver Groups where they build the capacities to improve their working conditions and negotiate better terms and wages with their contractors. The program has developed into an export hit: Label STEP has adapted the concept to local conditions in India, Nepal and Afghanistan.
Pakistan serves also as a “gateway to Afghanistan” for Label STEP since the carpet industries in both countries are closely connected. A majority of Afghan carpets are still brought to this neighboring country for finishing, and reach the world market via Pakistan. Through close collaboration between the Afghan and Pakistan office, Label STEP is the only organization able to track this cross-border carpet supply chain.