By Nina Smith
Editor’s Note: Nina Smith is the founding CEO of GoodWeave International, a Washington DC-based non-profit organization that works to stop child labor in the carpet industry.
In a small village in central Afghanistan, 13-year-old Basma is about to start her first day of school –- ever.
She’s a world away from the millions of western children who are now heading back to their classrooms for a new school year.
Only weeks before, Basma was found working on a carpet loom. Her weaving fingers already showed signs of arthritis from holding tools since the age of nine, tying knots for 14 hours a day.
She was rescued by GoodWeave, an international organization I head in the U.S. that seeks to eliminate child labor in carpet manufacturing.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 168 million child laborers like Basma around the world, forced to sacrifice their youth and their education.
Many of these boys and girls manufacture the very items that American consumers will have purchased this Labor Day weekend in anticipation of the new academic year –- as well as other parents across the world.
The U.S. National Retail Federation estimates that parents will spend $26.5 billion this back-to-school shopping season.
Some of their purchases will include clothes stitched in Bangladeshi factories not far from Rana Plaza, the factory complex that collapsed last year, killing more than 1,100 garment workers including some who were underage.