The IKEA Foundation announced May 15 that it has pledged $10 million to Save The Children, India, to end child labor in the country’s cotton industry, which currently employs than three million children.
The announcement came a day after the Dalai Lama pledged $1.5 million of his Templeton Prize award money to Save the Children, India, to end child malnutrition in that country (I-W, March 18).
The Foundation will target three Indian states where cotton-related child labor is most prevalent: Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. Those three states alone employ about 40 percent of India’s child cotton-field labor force, according to a 2008 study commissioned by IKEA. Punjab has about half a million children employed in the cotton industry, while Rajasthan has 440,000.
More than 350,000 children in Haryana work in the cotton fields, according to IKEA’s report.
“This is a natural step in our long collaboration with Save the Children to strengthen children’s rights in India,” said Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “If we can create more opportunities for children in developing countries by improving education and awareness of children’s rights, we can help these children break the cycle of poverty and build a bright future for themselves, their families and society at large,” he said in a press statement.
The home furnishings giant uses cotton supplied by Indian farmers for many of its products, including bed linens, cushions, toys and furniture. In a press statement issued in March, IKEA said that 25 percent of its cotton comes from sources that have not employed child labor and have paid the farmer a fair wage. The majority of cotton in IKEA products is grown in India and Pakistan.
The Swedish retailer has already been actively addressing child labor in more than 1,800 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra, and says it has moved about 65,000 children out of child labor and into classrooms. IKEA’s projects in those two states have helped 89,000 children get pre-school education. Another 16,000 Indian teens have received vocational training.
The new projects in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan aim to improve the quality of education, and reduce the drop-out rate.
In a report issued last year, the education organization Pratham noted that about 72 million primary school age children and another 71 million adolescents are not at school.
The IKEA/Save the Children, India project also aims to enhance family incomes through access to government, social security schemes and rural work initiatives. The project also aims to educate parents about the dangers to children who work in cotton fields or factories.
“Children’s groups have played an essential role in educating local officials in the risks of sending children to work and the importance of education,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children, India. “We are delighted to be able to work with the IKEA Foundation to reach even more children across India,” he said.