U Roberto Romano

Photo Essays

Human Rights Watch: Fields of Peril

In this 99-page report Human Rights Watch found that child farmworkers risked their safety, health, and education on commercial farms across the United States. For the report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 59 children under age 18 who had worked as farmworkers in 14 states in various regions of the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of children under age 18 are working in agriculture in the United States. But under a double standard in US federal law, children can toil in the fields at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and under far more hazardous conditions than all other working children. For too many of these children, farmwork means an early end to childhood, long hours at exploitative wages, and risk to their health and sometimes their lives. Although their families’ financial need helps push children into the fields—poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees—the long hours and demands of farmwork result in high drop-out rates from school. Without a diploma, child workers are left with few options besides a lifetime of farmwork and the poverty that accompanies it.

Download the summary and recommendations in PDF format.

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Faces of Freedom

The beauty of a hand woven carpet is inextricably linked to the people who make it. Yet today approximately 250,000 children weave the rugs that adorn North American and European homes. GoodWeave gives these children hope. GoodWeave not only rescues and educates thousands of child laborers, it is transforming the industry that impacts them.

Faces of Freedom offers a look into the heart of that transformation. This traveling photo exhibition, sponsored by GoodWeave and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, takes you behind the looms and inside the carpet factories of South Asia. The images, captured by photo documentarian, filmmaker and human rights educator U. Roberto Romano, are displayed in their entirety on this website. They will connect you to the positive, real-life difference that the GoodWeave is making – and we hope that they inspire you to take action.

“Over the past 10 years I have watched GoodWeave take a lead role in the rescue and rehabilitation of child slaves and laborers in the carpet industry. It has grown into a trusted organization that continues to expand its reach and vision, all the while educating consumers that they can be good global citizens and make a difference where it is needed most. Many of the images here are grim reminders that children are still exploited in the netherworld of the global economy, but most show us that there is always hope when they are given a chance, and this is how it should be.”

- U. Roberto Romano

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The Dark Side of Chocolate Gallery

The Dark Side of Chocolate is a documentary about the continued allegations of trafficking of children and child labor in the international chocolate industry.

While we enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, the reality is strikingly different for African children.

In 2001 consumers around the world were outraged to discover that child labor and slavery, trafficking, and other abuses existed on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, a country that produces nearly half the world’s cocoa. An avalanche of negative publicity and consumer demands for answers and solutions soon followed.

Two members of US Congress, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Eliot Engel of New York, tackled the issue by adding a rider to an agricultural bill proposing a federal system to certify and label chocolate products as “slave free”.

The measure passed the House of Representatives and created a potential disaster for Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Mars, Hershey’s, Nestle, Barry Callebaut, Saf-Cacao and other chocolate manufacturers. To avoid legislation that would have forced chocolate companies to label their products with ”no child labor” labels (for which many major chocolate manufacturers wouldn’t qualify), the industry fought back and finally agreed to a voluntary protocol to end abusive and forced child labor on cocoa farms by 2005.

The chocolate industry fought back. Ultimately, a compromise was reached to end child labor on Ivory Coast cocoa farms by 2005.

In 2005 the cocoa industry failed to comply with the protocol’s terms, and a new deadline for 2008 was established.

In 2008 the terms of the protocol were still not met, and yet another deadline for 2010 was set.

And in 2010?

Almost a decade after the chocolate companies, concerned governments and specially foundations spent millions of dollars in an effort to eradicate child labor and trafficking in the international cocoa trade, has anything changed?

Miki Mistrati and U Roberto Romano launch a behind-the-scenes investigation and verify if these allegations of child labor in the chocolate industry are present today.

Stolen Childhoods Gallery

Click here to watch the trailer for Stolen Childhoods

Click here to watch the coverage of Stolen Childhoods on ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel