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) Ergonomic carpet loom for

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66) Ergonomic carpet loom for adults only

Period of implementation: 2003 – 2006

Where: Pakistan

Main focus: Improving working condition for adults to eliminate the exploitation of children

Lead organization: Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (CIWCE), Labour and Human Resource Department, Government of the Punjab


Results: Children cannot work on the new loom; child labour has been reduced in the households of the 30 model worksites; all the families who were provided a loom are sending their children younger than 15 years to a non-formal education centre; around 26,000 working children and their siblings were enrolled in a non-formal education centre; the productivity and earnings were enhanced by 30–50 per cent of the households participating in the 30 model worksites; the results from the 30 model worksites indicated a marked reduction in health complaints of adults; young people older than 15 years are now learning the craft in a safe and healthy work environment; yhe carpet businessmen and international organizations have welcomed the new loom and are exploring the possibilities of propagating the model not only in Pakistan but in other countries where carpet weaving is carried out; more than 700 non-formal education centres were established in ten districts of Punjab; the success of the loom project became impetus to other sectors to tackle hazardous child labour by improving the working conditions of adults and improving their productivity and health, such as the highly dangerous fodder-chopping machine; the CIWCE, who conceived the idea, were awarded the Tech Award for Innovations Benefitting Humanity as well as the Grand Prize from the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California, USA in 2005 (from among 80 countries and more than 560 innovations), and two years ago won Presidential Award, recognition for his duty, 50,000 rupees.

Context and objective: Hand-knotted carpet weaving is an ancient craft that millions of people across modern-day Central and South Asia rely on for their livelihood. In Pakistan, a major producer of such carpets, it is a common source of income for rural families. There are approximately 300,000 looms in Pakistan – a third of them in Punjab Province. Those looms, however, have hardly changed in design since the sixteenth century, when the craft was introduced into South Asia. Although they produce beautiful rugs, the wooden looms are hazardous: weavers need to squat or sit on their toes for long hours; the wooden boards they sit on tend to bend due to moisture, making the weavers’ posture even more uncomfortable. The wooden rods and a metal pipe used for changing the warp threads for knotting often hit a weaver in the head when entering or exiting the loom. During the winding of the finished carpet on the roller, the heavy metal fastening chain sometimes snaps and hits the person rolling the carpet in the head, teeth or face. As well, the looms typically are installed in dark and dingy rooms with poor lighting and ventilation. After years of working in this condition, many adults suffer debilitating health issues and low productivity because they can’t remain long on the loom and thus they pull in their children (taking them out of school or never enrolling them) to complete their contracted orders.

ILO involvement in Pakistan’s carpet sector dates back to 1995, at the onset of the IPEC country programme, which came at the request of the then Pakistan Carpets and Manufacturers’ Association to respond to the international consumer pressure on child labour involvement in carpet-making. The ensuing action programme to combat child labour in the carpet industry demonstrated successful public-private-multilateral partnership as well as the piloting of multi-faceted response strategies, which have since become standard practice. Key actors in this partnership were the Punjab Department of Labour and Human Resource Development, the then Pakistan Carpets Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association, the NGO Bunyad (BLCC and ILO-IPEC. Pilot action at the time was based on results of rapid assessments and consultations. In 2001, the Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment of the Punjab Labour and Human Resource Department (with funding from the European Union through ILO/IPEC) surveyed weaving households and found that 80 per cent of the workforce was female and 60 per cent (at 100,000) were children. While 78 per cent of the parents were illiterate, only 8 per cent of children were enrolled in school. Another study on the health and safety conditions that the CIWCE also conducted (with ILO/IPEC Carpet Project funding) found that carpet weavers were suffering from frequent health problems related to pains in their bones and joints as well as respiratory ailments due to bad working posture, long working hours and a poor work environment. Carpal tunnel syndrome was widespread among weavers, and some children suffered from bone deformities due to the bad working posture. Many of the weaving families were in debt. From both studies it became clear that the poor design of the carpet loom was the major cause of health problems, low productivity and thus a huge contributing factor in whether children took up weaving or went to school.

Methodology: As a recipient of ILO/IPEC technical support and grants over the past five years, the Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment focuses on either eliminating child labour or hazardous conditions from certain workplaces. Along with the innovative re-thinking of dangerous machines, it has set up model workplaces in various sectors to improve safety conditions and to provide workers aged 15–17 a safe environment in which to learn vocational skills. Based on the findings from a few studies on weaving households as well as health and safety conditions, the CIWCE team recognized the weaving loom as a central part of the problem, compounded by it being a fixed structured and typical home environment (dusty and dark) and set out to make it more conducive to adult work:

  • CIWCE developed a grant proposal for ILO/IPEC on developing an ergonomic loom, and an engineer was hired to work with its safety and health technician team.

  • The team sought out the steel fabrication from the local markets and consulted producers to first encourage them to submit a proposal to make the loom for the government centre and then to encourage their long-term free-market production of the looms as a new business.

  • The team consulted weavers, both in households and large factories, and began experimenting with models, testing and modifying repeatedly. The loom was extensively tested to see its acceptability by poor and illiterate families.

  • This new technology replaced the wooden loom with a portable steel pipe-frame loom on which the weavers do not have to sit at the ground level; instead, they sit on a chair and can even weave while standing. Actually, the height was set for an adult’s body, making it difficult for young to weave. Foot and arm rests were added so that weavers can stretch their back while working. The loom is portable and can be rearranged in the home to suit the weaver’s comfort. The wooden rod for changing the warp side has been replaced by a locking gear, eliminating the cause of head injuries. The chain winding for the finished carpet has been replaced with a gear winding mechanism that eliminates the chance of facial injuries during winding.

  • After repeated trials , 30 looms were ordered to be built and trialled in model worksites (in both household and manufacturing workplaces) in three districts. The households chosen were recommended by communities and were those with children involved in the weaving but with parents open to sending them to school.

  • After setting up a loom in the 30 work sites (mostly homes), the CIWCE staff counselled the adult weavers and contractors on the needed health and safety measures, such as improvements in the natural lighting and ventilation and whitewashing the walls to enhance the lighting. They were introduced to the new loom and the practical methods for reducing hazards. The households were provided with dust masks and mats (which can be easily swept with a damp cloth) and first-aid kits.

  • The ILO/IPEC Carpet Project provided the looms, giving first-time ownership to weavers. An information campaign targeted the carpet-weaving families, contractors and community leaders to make them aware of the health and safety risks to children.

  • An NGO monitored the worksites and the school attendance of the children. Many of the children, mostly the girls, had never attended school and were enrolled in a non-formal education centre.

  • A year later, the CIWCS team conducted a follow-up survey, engaging a doctor to conduct the physical exam and analysis of aches and pains.

  • Community gatherings on hazardous child labour were organized in areas where weaving most common, during which video testimonials were shown that poignantly illustrated the negative impacts on children’s health. Many parents removed their children from the weaving work after hearing those stories of the health impacts.

Lessons learned:

It is time to modernize old designs, old technology, old traditions. And it can be done without much investment to make them more healthy and productive.

In the highly conservative Pakistan (and in the areas of high illiteracy), many people prefer old ideas, even if they are hazardous. Introducing new ideas requires changing mindsets, which was done by showing the economic benefit: the higher production rate – its safety improvements were not impressive to many users. In the end, money wins over safety. The money factor – improved productivity and income – must be emphasized. This remains a challenge for many technological improvements.

Including the local market of producers in the consulting and piloting stages helps to create local market ownership of technological change and encourage the long-term free-market production of innovations.

There are many types of hazardous labour involving older children. Yet, if the hazards can be removed with minor modifications, it could easily become safe, skilled and legally acceptable and productive work for children of legal working age. There is no need to shut down some businesses – just use an organized manner to change how they manage that business, discourage the employment of children at a young age and encourage young people to learn traditional skills.
Challenges: Carpet weaving is largely a home-based cottage industry and introducing a new machine requires demonstrations and awareness raising; people need convincing of its productivity. In Pakistan, the model sites over time demonstrated the health impacts and the improved adult productivity, with the weavers’ testimonials about their increased incomes and reduced health issues having the biggest impact.

Many employers did not see the utility in the new loom and were not concerned about health problems or, rather, wanted to believe their workers were healthy. Contractors especially were ambivalent on the issue of children weaving, saying it was not their responsibility that families were engaging their children to produce the carpets. They were not employing the children, they said. They thought the new loom was an unnecessary fancy version. The early adopters in manufacturing were those with very skilled workers. Once a loom was installed in a village, neighbours came to watch and talked with the weavers and upon hearing about improvements in comfort and income, they became convinced. They began lobbying for a new loom from their contractor. Testimonials and videos of people using the loom helped to convince employers – they were first moved by the improvements in the quality of the finished product and then by the health improvements. But it took demonstrating the improvements – they had to see it.

Next Steps: The Punjab provincial government is considering allocating funds from its development budget to establish model worksites in five districts to promote the loom among carpet weavers and employers. The main beneficiaries will be women weavers in poor rural households. The purpose of the project will be to assess the economic impact on household income, productivity and to explore the possibility for large-scale adoption in the “carpet cities” that may be established to promote expansion of the carpet industry. The idea remains on the drawing board because weaving families or contractors or exporters were expected to contribute 30 per cent of the cost of the loom and as yet, no one is willing to commit. Part of the difficulty is that exporters do not want to become known as the employer of somebody (such as a child worker potentially), which they technically would be if they put up the 30 per cent. The bigger problem is the market situation; if that improves, there is much potential with the new loom inside and outside Pakistan. There is much inquiry coming from Afghanistan, for example.

67) Improved fodder-cutting machine could protect millions of young livestock farmers (Pakistan)

Period of implementation: 2012 - 2013

Where: Pakistan

Main focus: Improving working conditions for adults to eliminate the exploitation of children

Lead organization: Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (CIWCE), Labour and Human Resource Department, Government of the Punjab

Results: Farmers easily see the value and are asking for the new model; a variety of associations have promoted its use among their members; the innovation in technology removed a major hazard confronting children daily while making food for livestock; the Government is considering a proposal to prohibit the sale of any fodder-chopping machine that has no safety protection; the Government has promised that a bill will be introduced once the improved toka machine is easily available in market in the coming two years

Context and objective: A recent ILO/IPEC investigation into the effect of work on children’s health in Pakistan found that child workers in agriculture-related occupations (crop agriculture, cotton production, date palm farming and livestock raising) in some ways appears safer than other occupations studied – but it is not, especially considering its two serious hazards: pesticide poisoning and injuries to feet and hands from machinery. According to the report on the research in 10 occupational sectors, particularly distressing is the toll taken by the toka fodder-cutting machine, which has resulted in a large number of amputations. Although chopping fodder is a common rural household activity and many children work with the machine as part of their family chores, it is typical practice for commercial livestock farms (with more than 10 buffalo) to employ young boys and to give them responsibility for making fodder. Many cases of child workers with fodder machine-related amputation have been documented. Although Pakistan’s child labour law prohibits the employment of children on a toka, enforcement is weak so that children and young persons (both girls and boys) regularly operate them, mostly to help in the family chores.
Methodology: As a recipient of ILO/IPEC technical support and grants over the past five years, the Centre for Improvement in Working Conditions and Environment focuses on eliminating child labour, and for those of legal working age, eliminating hazardous conditions from workplaces. Along with the innovative re-thinking of dangerous machines, it has set up model workplaces in various sectors to improve safety conditions and to provide workers aged 15–17 a safe environment in which to learn vocational skills. Aware of the dangers inherent with the use of the toka machine, the CIWCE team in 2012 set out to make it safe:

  • The team then engaged an engineer, who was a student interested in pro bona work with CIWCE and who proposed safety components to modify an existing machine.

  • The team then installed five machines in model workplaces, benefitting around 50 workers. The new safety conditions included a chain-link fence around the machine to protect anyone from walking too close when it was in operation.

  • The machine was introduced to the provincial government, with requests for funding to promote it to the public. Considering most of the government officials came from a rural background, it was easy for them to understand the need. The machines are to be distributed to the model farms set up through the agriculture department to teach crop diversification techniques and other innovations and which operate as a training venue to reach as many people as possible.

  • The CIWCE team continues to organize workshops for employers and machine owners to demonstrate the safe technology and encourage the replacement of the hazardous machines, which eventually will be illegal. The team also promotes the technology, using images of young workers with an amputated arm or hand for extra incentive, through newspapers, television, brochures and local campaigns.

  • To encourage the largest traditional machine manufacturers to produce the safer model, the CIWCE offered to publicize their participation and steer consumers to their product (still in discussion stage). The CIWCE has conducted at least ten OSH seminars in the project’s two districts were conducted with employers’ associations, who signed codes of conduct in agriculture to not use child labour. The CIWCE also has conducted an awareness campaign on these machines and other hazards, with the local media participating.

Lessons learned: Removing hazards from workplaces that affect children and adolescents, and indeed adults, can be simple and even inexpensive. Making workplaces safe can remove the hazards without needing to remove children of legal working age from work that provides them opportunity to learn vocational skills as apprentices.
Challenges: The main challenge was keeping the safety modification simple but completely safe; there was a tendency to make it sophisticated when such a level of complexity wasn’t needed or wouldn’t be practical. The designers were held to a simplicity standard and kept working with users until everyone felt satisfied it had reached the ambition of simple but safe.

Most farmers want to avoid the dangerous hazard the old machine imposed, so convincing them of the worth of the new design was easy. In pockets where farmers are illiterate, changing mindsets imposed more of a challenge and required reaching them with information. Also, providing the alternative option of the safety components rather than requiring farmers to buy a more expensive machine helped ease in the change. Once the first wave of change is made, it is likely to tip the others in favour of it.

Next Steps: The law prohibiting the sale of a fodder-chopping machine without safety features would be a positive legal measure but enforcement would need to be robust to ensure the widespread uptake of the new machine and likely the replacement or modification of the dangerous machines.

Demand from consumers certainly will sustain the production and purchase of the safer machines, but that requires informing consumers that there are cheap options. Many people do not know they have options

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