He is best known for receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. But did you know that Kailash Satyarthi has been fighting to protect and ensure children’s’ rights for three decades now? Here are 5 things that you need to know about this change-maker.
For three decades, one man has been working to protect children from exploitation. He has led several movements, peaceful protests, and campaigns to protect and advance child rights in India.
And not many people were aware of his incredible work and achievements till he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
We are talking, of course, about Kailash Satyarthi, the man on a mission. He kickstarted his efforts in the field when he founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (lit. Save the Childhood Movement) in 1980. Since then, his work and efforts have only become bigger and better. Till date, he has saved thousands of children from exploitation.
Here are the five things you need know about him:
1. He has freed over 83,000 children from slavery and child labour.
He was just 26 when he gave up his career as an electrical engineer to work for children. Kailash founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan and has consistently worked hard to protect the rights of thousands of children – till date, his work has freed over 83,000 from 144 countries!
2. His ideals are reflected even his name.
Kailash was born Kailash Sharma. But even as a teenager, his ideals were guiding him in the direction of equality and social justice. When he was 15 years old, he gave up his surname following an incident that left a deep impact on him. He, along with friends, had organised a dinner for “high caste” political leaders. And the food for the dinner was prepared by “low caste” people. When they go to know the identity of the cooks, the politicians did not turn up for dinner and even boycotted Kailash and his friends’ families for organising it. He was deeply affected by the injustice inherent in this deeply-flawed caste system; he decided to drop his surname and adopt “Satyarthi” instead — which translates to “Seeker of Truth”.
3. He started young.
Kailash was 11-years-old when he, along with his friends, collected used books from his neighbourhood in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh and distributed them to children who needed them.
4. He founded GoodWeave.
In 1994, Kailash started an initiative called “Rugmark” (now known as GoodWeave International). The aim of the initiative is to create a carpet industry that does not make use of child labour. Rugs sold under the GoodWeave label are certified child-labor-free.
5. He started the Global March movement.
This movement has sent a powerful international message against child labour. Started in 1998, it began with an 80,000 km long physical march across 103 countries. Members from over 140 different countries participated in the march. The impact of the movement has been so profound that today, 177 of 185 member countries of the International Labour Organisation have ratified a convention against child labour.
In addition to these stellar achievements, Kailash has several awards recognising his work. One of these is the Harvard “Humanitarian of the Year” Award, which he received in 2015. This makes him the first Indian to receive this honour.
All images from Facebook.
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Kailash Satyarthi says his heroes are the children he has saved from slavery. The Nobel peace prize winner, 60, has been credited with helping to free about 80,000 children from bonded labour since he started his advocacy in the 1980s. He says the Nobel prize “is an honour for my fellow Indians and for all those children whose voice has never been heard before in the country”.
Described as a tireless campaigner for children’s rights, Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – “save the childhood movement”, roughly translated from the Hindi – in 1980. The organisation has sought to educate the tens of thousands of children it has rescued, reintegrating them into society. Satyarthi has led rescue missions for children and others working in bonded labour in manufacturing industries, surviving several attacks on his life in the process.
Born in 1954 in the Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh in central India, Satyarthi studied electrical engineering and obtained a postgraduate diploma in high-voltage engineering. He taught as a professor in Bhopal before dedicating himself to a life of advocacy against child labour and child servitude.
BBA helped to initiate the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, a gathering of more than 750 civil society organisations. In 1994, Satyarthi started Goodweave, the first voluntary labelling and certification system for child labour-free rugs in south Asia.
In 1998, he organised the global march against child labour: more than 7.2 million people in 103 countries took part in what was the largest campaign on the issue. The march informed the draft of the International Labour Organisation’s convention 182, which addresses the worst forms of child labour.
The children who marched with Satyarthi in 1998 were his inspiration, he has said, because they were so selfless, energetic and committed to ending all forms of child exploitation.
Satyarthi described his fight against child labour as a human rights issue and linked this campaign to his advocacy for education. He is on the board of the Global Campaign for Education, a coalition of civil society networks and teachers’ associations campaigning for education for all.
BBA and Satyarthi, who has won a clutch of international development awards including the US state department’s Heroes Acting to End Modern Slavery award in 2007, also developed Bal Mitra Gram, or child friendly villages. There are now about 350 such villages across 11 states of India, with most of the work concentrated in Rajasthan and Jharkhand. Children take part in governance bodies and youth groups, giving them a greater say in daily life.
Satyarthi has also helped children sold to pay their parents’ debts to find new lives and act as agents of social change in their own communities.
He lives in New Delhi with his wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law. He is working to make child labour and slavery a feature of the the UN’s development agenda after the expiry of the millennium development goals in 2015.