Empowering weavers and building a sustainable industry
Improving the lives of workers and weavers while building a sustainable handmade carpet industry is a complex process. Not only does it require producers who follow applicable laws and Label STEP’s Standard for fair trade, it also takes an informed workforce who can meaningfully contribute to the conversation and advancement.
This is where STEP’s Weaver Empowerment program comes in. Weaver Empowerment offers weavers and workers opportunities to educate themselves with relevant information for improving their wellbeing. Since its launch in Nepal, the program has reached over 6 000 participants. Helping workers build their knowledge and skills also has a positive effect on the health of the handmade carpet industry as a whole. Ensuring highly skilled artisans are provided with all the tools and supports necessary for their wellbeing helps to preserve this ancient craft and contribute to a sustainable industry for years to come.
As weaving is most often done by economically disadvantaged members of society – those for whom access to basic necessities and education is challenging – STEP has developed six different Weaver Empowerment modules to meet the most immediate needs of workers. The modules include: Health and Hygiene; Lifestyle and Citizenship; Workers’ Rights and Responsibilities; The Carpet Industry; Education and the Rights of Women and Children; and, Financial Literacy. The content of these modules can be combined or customized to meet the specific realities of different weaving regions and the needs of participants.
1) Health and Hygiene
This module focuses on personal and environmental health and cleanliness, covering topics such as: clean and safe drinking water; prevention (including vaccination) and treatment of common illnesses; first aid; family planning; and, in instances where weavers are predominantly female, women’s health.
2) Lifestyle and Citizenship
Many weavers are migrant workers for whom working in a carpet manufactory is the first experience away from home. In this module, STEP foregrounds adjusting to a new environment and, in case such as weavers working in Nepal, adapting to life and work in an urban setting. Citizenship and labour documentation requirements as well as schooling for children are just some of the topics discussed.
3) Workers’ Rights and Responsibilities
Working in a carpet manufactory or as a home-based weaver comes with certain rights and responsibilities, which sometimes differ from other forms of manual labour. This module actively engages factory owners, contractors, weavers and workers in developing healthy, strong and mutually respectful workplaces and relationships. Focus is placed on understanding the importance of rest periods, productivity, quality and timeliness. The goal is to ensure that weavers earn a fair living while the quality requirements of the producers and employers are met in a sustainable and fair manner.
4) The Carpet Industry
Together with consumers, weavers play the most critical role in the handmade carpet industry. In this module, STEP not only educates weavers about the process of carpet making and distribution but also teaches conflict management, the advantages of working in their home country (as opposed to abroad), and the rights and responsibilities of workers in a global supply chain. These lessons empower weavers by providing them with the tools and information needed to advocate for themselves.
5) Education and the Rights of Women and Children
Many weavers come from an undereducated background and may not understand the importance education plays in lifting people out of poverty. In this module, STEP illustrates to weavers how accessing education for their children is an investment in the future – stressing non-discriminatory access to education for all genders. Equality in pay and treatment, the prohibition of child labour and the dangers of human trafficking are also discussed to ensure workers better understand the nature of their environments and are equipped to safeguard their futures.
6) Financial Literacy
Developed in response to the recurring issue of financial debt among carpet weavers and workers, this module covers: the importance of saving to securing long-term financial stability and quality of life; identifying and reducing expenses; and cultivating strong budgeting and saving habits. Through a combination of audio-visual aids, storytelling, and hands-on work, participants gain awareness, knowledge and practice in financial literacy. Beyond this training, STEP works to assist participants on their way to greater financial security by helping them to open bank accounts or to organise saving groups.
The STEP Weaver Empowerment program is offered to handmade carpet manufacturers who are affiliated with one of our Certified STEP Partners. Building personal and professional empowerment at the grass roots level is just one of the many ways STEP is ensuring a sustainable future for the handmade carpet industry and all those involved.
If you want to get involved and ensure that those who weave your rugs are provided the opportunity to benefit from this program, please contact us.