Capturing the World as it is, and Changing it for the Better

By U. Roberto Romano

In May 2012, award-winning photographer and filmmaker U. Roberto Romano returned to the carpet belts of Nepal and India to document the disturbing face of child labor today, as well as the hopeful faces of children rescued from servitude and educated by GoodWeave. The new collection will be previewed this July to 35,000 young social justice activists attending the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans.

U. Roberto Romano

U. Roberto Romano playing with rescued child weavers at Hamro Ghar.
Photo © U. Roberto Romano.

Pictures show us the world as it really is, especially when what you are trying to show is ‘unimaginable.’ We know the words ‘child,’ ‘slave’ and ‘carpet,’ but images can distill their essence into an undeniable and powerful experience that cannot be ignored by the viewer. From the pleading eyes of the enslaved girl who sits at a loom in Bhaktapur, to the impossibly old and swollen hands of Sanju Maya who, for most of her young life, knew nothing but the burden of debt and work before being rescued by GoodWeave, images convey what words cannot: the unmitigated horror that is visited daily on millions of the world’s children. How can anyone not react when confronted by that reality?

But there is always hope. Now Sanju Maya has a chance for a different life, one of education and fulfillment, as a beneficiary of GoodWeave's comprehensive programs for rescued child weavers. Every time I visit a carpet factory or a school touched by GoodWeave, I am reminded that there is hope.

For more than 15 years I have been documenting child labor and slavery in South Asia’s carpet industries, and in that time I have seen GoodWeave grow into one of the most effective organizations of its kind. As part of a broader movement to end child labor and slavery, GoodWeave has reduced the number of children working on the looms by hundreds of thousands. At their best, certification labels create both change and consciousness, and GoodWeave has done both, while adapting to the changing landscape of the marketplace, the industry and the communities where the organization operates.

Click here to preview Romano’s latest body of work on Facebook.

Preview Faces of Freedom, or visit the Faces of Freedom website to view the exhibit online.

Stand with Sanju

Stand with Sanju film still


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Children's Stories

At the age of five, Manju was already working on the rug looms. While she has since been found and freed from illegal carpet work, some 250,000 children throughout South Asia still toil in obscurity. Through GoodWeave nearly 3,600 kids like Manju have been rescued, rehabilitated and educated, and thousands more deterred from entering the work force.

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