NOTE: This is a guest blog post from April Thompson, Director of Marketing and Communications of GoodWeave USA.
U. Roberto Romano has photographed thousands of children in his decades traveling the globe to document child slavery in its many forms— from the carpet looms of Asia, to the cocoa fields of Africa, to the fishing platforms off the coast of Indonesia. Yet for him, the faces of individual children he has photographed remain etched in his memory.
“Pictures show us the world as it really is, especially when what you are trying to show is unimaginable,” said Romano. “From the pleading eyes of the enslaved girl who sits at a loom in Bhaktapur, Nepal to the impossibly old, scarred hands of a former child weaver, Sanju, in Kathmandu who, for most of her young life, knew nothing but the burden of debt and work. Such images convey what words cannot: the crime of child labor committed against 215 million of the world’s kids.”
This May, the award-winning photographer and filmmaker 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 the international nonprofit GoodWeave. The new collection is part of GoodWeave’s traveling photo exhibit “Faces of Freedom” and will be previewed this July to 35,000 young social justice activists attending the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans.
Romano knows that depicting a problem without a solution is a recipe for despair, but child labor has an answer in the work of organizations like GoodWeave.
“When Sanju Maya told me she had finally found the sister and best friend she had always wanted at [rehabilitation center] Hamro Ghar, I knew that she felt hope for the first time in her life and this is what I wanted to capture, that GoodWeave means hope for so many children,” said Romano. “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.”
Romano was also impressed by the self-confident stance of Saraswoti as she displayed her certificate. This young woman became Kathmandu’s first female motorcycle mechanic with GoodWeave’s support. Together, Sanju and Saraswoti symbolize the empowerment that is possible when adults earn a living wage and kids are sent to school instead of work.
Everyone can be a part of the picture of hope. Whether it’s organizing a fundraiser or sharing a post about child labor on Facebook, a thousand small acts can add up to a big change. Where do you fit into the picture?
Click here to preview Romano’s latest body of work on Facebook.
Photo credit: Nepal GoodWeave Foundation