“Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime. If any child is a child slave in any part of the world, it is a blot on humanity. It is a disgrace.”
Kailash Satyarthi is the first Indian to win the Nobel Peace Prize—Gandhi was never given that recognition, and Mother Teresa was a native Albanian. For over 30 years, Satyarthi has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of children and has tried to rescue children from forced labor in factories, brickyards, and the sex trades. Over the years he has helped free almost 80,000 children from various slave conditions and helped them attain education and rehabilitation. He established a village “half-way” community to resettle rescued slaves.
Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – the Save Childhood Movement. He is also director of the South Asia Coalition on Child Servitude. In 1994 he founded the Rugmark Foundation, now known as Goodweave, an organization to certify carpets that have not used child labor and that provides support for children who have been rescued out of exploitative labor situations.
Besides advocacy for child labor legal reforms, Satyarthi has used Gandhian forms of nonviolent protest and demonstrations. The most massive was the 1998 Global March Against Child Labor that saw children rescued from exploitative labor march through 60 countries to an International Labor Organization conference in Geneva where they demanded basic human rights. The march provided an opportunity for global education on modern slavery and child exploitation issues.
With criminal gangs involved in much of the human trafficking and labor exploitation, Satyarthi’s work has not been easy or safe. He and his colleagues engage in secret raids to rescue slaves in mob-run quarries and kilns. Satyarthi and his workers were brutally beaten rescuing children from a circus mafia in 2004. Then again in 2011 he and his colleagues were attacked while rescuing slaves from garment sweatshops in Delhi. The BBA offices have been repeatedly ransacked. Yet Satyarthi has continued to be the voice lifting up modern slavery, especially of children, as a basic human rights issue for India and the rest of the world.
PBS “New Heroes” Documentary: