28.7041° N, 77.1025° E
Photographers - Matt Porteous & Ollie Jones
It is estimated that there are around 152 million children in slavery around the world.
Ollie has wanted to create a project on child labour for a long time - it is very close to his heart, as he has his own children, he can understand and empathise with the importance of ending a worldwide issue like this.
Years ago, when on holiday in Thailand with his children, Ollie got chatting with a bartender who was sending his son back to Cambodia to get a job and earn some money for the family. This seemed like a completely normal conversation, until Ollie was taken aback when the guy asked Ollie’s daughter Jess (age six) what she does for work.
As a result of him empathising because of having his own kids, it was Ollie’s long-term dream to create a project on child labour, and support a cause that actively improves the lives of those who have no choice in the matter. Being so close to his heart, and based on his desire, the team decided to head to India to work with a charity, to create content for a cause that has limited resources for content creation and outreach.
They did their research, reaching out to various charities, finding that GoodWeave would actually be in India at the time of their trip for their 25th anniversary, bringing together all their board members.
Although Matt and Ollie already had flights booked, they changed their travel dates so that they could attend the conference and meet everyone who is making such a difference to our world through ending child labour.
Everything, including travel and accommodation, was funded by Studio M, as part of our Studio M for Change initiative; we want to document positive change and the people who are making it happen. As part of our impact strategy, we supported this journey for the benefit of GoodWeave and creating content for them.
GoodWeave is an incredible example of a non-profit organisation who has limited resources to create content and/or share their stories with the world. We feel passionate about creating imagery and video for these types of companies, as they work for an extraordinary cause and put so much time and effort in for free. In the modern world, content is key, and thanks to the Internet and global communication, having the right content can be maximised and shared across social platforms. This is how major change happens, fast.
The unique thing about visiting the production sites in villages and factories with GoodWeave, was that their workers had access to all the locations, weavers and local people, whom the Studio M team would never have had the opportunity to meet if they had just turned up in India alone.
The team saw the positive side of GoodWeave’s action - the result of their hard work and what they are working to achieve - rather than the negativity of children in labour. Without the charity, Ollie said they probably would have returned home with more negative content such as kids on the street, poverty etc. It is important to be aware of both sides of the reality, however the fact that they could capture this positive change reflects the Studio’s desire to work with companies who want to create positive change and document it for them in creative, inspiring ways.
It’s not only child labour that GoodWeave wants to end - they want to improve everything that is encompassed under this bracket, such as children not being fed, being abused and working and living in extremely dangerous conditions. With such a wide focus, an essential part of the GoodWeave philosophy is knowing their whole supply chain from beginning to the very end, including the stockists that they sell their products to, to ensure that no child labour is involved at any stage of the production. They work towards bringing full visibility to the supply chain, including the smaller hidden stages.
GoodWeave has worked with the rug industry for 25 years, and have now branched out into textiles, apparel, jewellery and tea.
They also recognise that now, more and more companies in the modern world are starting to recognise that consumers care about where their products are coming from, and are more likely to buy items if they have an ethical stamp of approval on it.
Companies are struggling more to sell things that have child exploitation or bad working conditions involved, as customers and initiatives like Goodweave are examining production ethics, partnering with the private sector and production companies to work out their supply chains. They work with communities and companies to remove children from labour and put them in education, remediating processes and finding solutions to any problems they come across.
Their system: ‘harnessing the power of the market, cleaning up supply chains, creating educational opportunities for children, and improving working conditions.’ And their mission? To stop child labour and global supply chains - Forever.
GoodWeave focuses on Northern India, with the Studio M team accompanying them to to specific areas, for example the village that is well known for creating luxuriously detailed rugs which retail for at least $10,000, as they require such a high level of skill from the workers.
Taking the children out of the workplace is critical, but also replacing their days with school and education is the way to improve their lives tenfold. Because the children can be so young, GoodWeave puts their emphasis on educating the parents on the importance of sending their children to school. They make it clear that in the future, their child’s career will be able to provide for everyone, rather than just working for now.
Their website states: ‘bringing visibility to global supply chains, giving voice to informal and marginalised workers, providing assurance that certified products are free of child labor, and restoring childhood to vulnerable children so they can laugh, learn, and play.’
The Studio M team were honoured to meet the founder of GoodWeave, Kailash Satyarthi, whose life mission is to end child labour, and to create a child friendly future around the world. He is a true example of an activist who enters places which exploit children, and rescues them, which can be a huge risk to his personal safety. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and has a documentary called ‘The Price of Free’ (which you can watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsqKz1hd_CY&feature=youtu.be) which won the 2018 U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
In his lifetime, he has freed more than 90,000 children - which if you think about it, is almost the same as the population of Jersey.
It was surreal, after only a few weeks earlier reaching out to this charity, to be sitting in the same room and taking the portrait of such an influential and important figure. He has made such a difference to, and continues to improve millions of peoples’ lives. Will filmed his speech, capturing a few of the endless stories Kailash has to tell about his lifetime dedicated to this cause: where he has come from, what he has seen, what he has been a part of.
GoodWeave are a very close knit team - even though it’s rare for all those people to be in the same place at the same time, they made the Studio M team feel at home and like a part of the family. They loved having Ollie, Matt and Will there and in turn, the team loved working with them!
This happiness was reflected by the children that the team met throughout their time in India. Despite not having any material possessions to their name, they do have life and career aspirations such as being a doctor, a teacher etc. - thanks to their education, they are optimistic about their futures and having fun.
There are also incentives in place to keep the kids in school; as well as educating the parents about the importance of school, offering a free lunch to each child that attends school means that the parents are more likely to ensure they keep going. There is so much poverty in these areas, that five free meals a week is a huge deal to a family so that they don’t have to provide food for them.
One school that the team visited was using modern teaching techniques, maybe as a result of western influence or maybe simply because that’s what keeps the children attending - learning through interaction, singing and dancing, the kids were happy and having the best time being taught. The kids are more interested, and therefore the drop-out rate is much lower than in other traditional schools in the area.
As a result of putting more emphasis on education, GoodWeave has seen almost an 80% reduction in the worst forms of child labour across India, Nepal and Afghanistan. Their current campaign, ‘Change the Pattern,’ emphasises the importance of businesses being transparent about supply chains and giving voices to workers, introducing some of the individuals whose childhood has been restored.
The Studio M crew would love to keep working with GoodWeave, to capture and create more content for both them and ourselves as a part of Studio M for Change. There may be an upcoming trip to Nepal in the Autumn, where the reality of the negative side of child labour is still prominent. However, this is important to capture: showing children in labour highlights the importance of exposing and ending child labour. GoodWeave works so hard to reveal and find solutions to the issue, which is what Studio M is committed to showcasing.
Studio M will be hosting an exhibition for World Child Labour Day here in the Studio, on Wednesday 12th June.
We feel that it is important to bring what the team were working for in India, back to our everyday lives, and educate and inspire our community here in Jersey. We hope to join with school curriculums and give back to our younger generations, highlighting the importance of human and children’s rights.
In time, we hope that the generation of money from these projects will help to fund future projects for GoodWeave and similar charities who don’t have the resources to create and share content. With our experience and inspirational creators here at Studio M, we can forge content for incredible organisations and individuals, telling their stories through multiple visual mediums and maximising impact, for the world to hear.
Project - Studio M for Change / GoodWeave International
Article - Pip Monks
Camera - Fuji GFX 50s
Lighting - Elinchrom