Artisan profile: JAKCISS Oriental Rugs

We’ve been preparing for several months for our annual Oriental rug sale at Villages of Austin.  By simply looking at the rugs, anyone can see how beautifully made they are.  What you don’t see at first glance is the story of the people behind the rugs.  This week we are profiling JAKCISS, the artisan group in Pakistan that handknots every rug we sell.  Enjoy!

From the Ten Thousand Villages website:

PhotobucketJAKCISS Oriental Rugs was founded in the late 1960s by a Pakistani pastor concerned about the welfare of the rural poor around Lahore. As farm labourers, rural people often needed to make extra money to survive. Those who weave carpets often ended up having to sell them to middlemen for less than the cost of the materials. They are also in competition with carpet factories that employ and enslave thousands of young children aged 5 to 14. By banding together and seeking out their own markets, JAKCISS ensures decent wages for all their artisans. Families who are unable to supply their own loom are provided with one for their home. This enables adults to schedule work around their other activities of farming, childcare and household duties. Christians and Muslims, Pakistanis and Afghani refugees are all involved in this rug-making venture, thus building bridges between different cultures and religions.

JAKCISS includes more than 400 families in 69 villages around Lahore. Sales have enabled them to build and staff schools and to support a variety of village development initiatives. There are now 1500 students in classes, over half of whom are girls. This is a marked achievement since the literacy rate for women in Pakistan is only 37% and substantially lower than that for women who live in villages. These schools represent a phenomenal change in a predominantly male-oriented society. The young men and women receive a good high school education and even aspire to go on to college and university. They have dreams of being teachers, doctors and other professionals. Because of JACKCISS, these are dreams that can come true.

JAKCISS has received enthusiastic endorsement by Rugmark International as an exemplary rug producer employing fairly paid adult-only labour.