BY SHANTAM SAHAI
A just man and father to thousands of children he saved, Kailash Satyarthi is a well-known name. He is a children’s rights activist and has liberated more than 86,000 children in India from child labour, slavery, and trafficking. He was among Fortune magazine’s ‘World’s Greatest Leaders’ in 2015. Recently he led a nationwide march, known as the Bharat Yatra, in India. The march covered 12,000 km in 35 days, the objective was to spread awareness about child sexual abuse and trafficking.
Till a few years ago, Syria was an educated, progressive and middle-income country. Today violent extremism has destroyed a generation, resulting in millions being forced to seek refuge and 7 million displaced internally. This has to stop now.
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) January 29, 2018
Kailash Satyarthi (born Kailash Sharma), a Nobel prize recipient and founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, changed his surname after a life-changing event. He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Harijan movement, hence, he decided to organize a dinner for the upper-caste people with food cooked by the lower-caste or ‘untouchable’ people.
The upper-caste men failed to show up. While Kailash Satyarthi went back to his house, he found the elderly of the upper-caste threatening to outcaste his family. He was supposed to take a holy trip to river Ganga, and also organize a feast for 101 priests, wash their feet and drink that water- that’s if he wished his family not to be outcasted from the community.
He refused to comply. In punishment, he was barred from entering the home kitchen and dining room, also his utensils were separated. In return, he outcasted the caste system by rejecting his surname, which reflected the caste of the family. He changed his surname to Satyarthi, which means seeker of truth.
However, this is not it. There’s another incident which led Kailash Satyarthi to question ‘why are some children born to work at the cost of their childhood and freedom and education and dreams?’. This incident is the foundation of all his work against child labor. In his initial school days, he had noticed a boy of his age mending shoes with his father (a cobbler) outside his school premises. He asked his teacher, why isn’t that boy in school like him? He was denied the answer. Satyarthi then went to his headmaster and asked the same question, his headmaster informed him that the cobbler was poor therefore he could not send his son to school and that it was perfectly normal for poor children to work in order to survive.
He was still unsatisfied with the answer. Hence, he went to the cobbler himself. The cobbler told him “some children are born to work”. This was beginning of his questions against the so-called ‘facts of life’.
Corporates can lead the charge to end modern slavery. They can transform into change makers.The eradication of modern slavery is possible but we must march together with a positive mindset. Today with @TR_Foundation at @Davos #WEF18
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) January 25, 2018
Here are some remarkable facts about Kailash Satyarthi:
1. Born in January 1954, in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, Kailash Satyarthi holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and a post graduate diploma, but he gave up his career to start a movement called ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA).
2. Bachpan Bachao Andolan – the organization he started over three decades ago – today is leading the crusade to eradicate child labour and trafficking. The organization has over 80,000 members and 750 organizations associated with it, together which support and act for the protection of child rights.
3. Being a schoolboy, it pained young Kailash to see how most of the others kids around him were not fortunate enough to attend a school and had to work as labourers at that tender age. Resolute to change the situation, Kailash started a football club, the fees for which went to support the education of poor and underprivileged children.
4. Soon after the completion of his education, for a brief period, Kailash Satyarthi took up teaching engineering in Bhopal. However, he left his teaching job to be a catalyst for social change. His first step was to start a ‘book club’ where he grouped donations & school textbooks for the needy children.
5. Kailash Satyarthi started his work for children’s rights in 1980, as the General Secretary of ‘Bonded Labor Liberation Front’. It is an organization working to free bonded labourers.
6. Initiating his altruist activities, Satyarthi, with help from other NGOs and activists, started staging raids on factories and plants and industries, that were forcing children to work as bonded labourers. In 1983, he started the Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
7. Initiated and implemented at the grassroots’ level, Satyarthi’s BBA has saved over 83,000 children forced in labour and trafficking in last three decades, and the organization has also channelized these underprivileged children through various rehabilitation programs.
8. Satyarthi has left behind no channel to propagate his dream of child-labour-free and child-friendly society. He has used social media, has persuaded politicians, lobbying when needed, and even taken legal routes when needed, knocking the doors of the Human Rights’ Commission as well as of the Supreme Court.
9. During the 1990s, Satyarthi joined the International Centre on Child Labour & Education – an international group of NGOs, activists, teachers, and corporates, strengthening his fight against forced labour and child trafficking. He also chaired the Global March Against Child Labour across 60 countries. Thousands of children participated in this Global March that concluded in Geneva.
Today after #20YearsofGlobalMarch we celebrate the movement towards a more child-friendly world. The quest for freedom of the marchers of Global March Against Child Labour helped reduce global child labour from 260m to 152m overtime. Join me to #EndChildLabour pic.twitter.com/PVcP7Y4rBV
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) January 17, 2018
10. It was there in Geneva where the conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) was underway and the efforts of Satyarthi and other global activists led the ILO to approve the Concord to recognize and protect children from the worst form of child labour.
11. Kailash Satyarthi even pioneered consumer awareness programs and schemes in European and American nations. Making the populations aware that South-Asian products had zero child labour involved in it, he shaped up ‘RugMark’, a scheme to certify carpets and rugs that have been made without any child labour.
12. The Right to Education Act is a result of a countrywide movement to make primary education a right. Kailash Satyarthi was one of the leaders in the movement.
13. In the ‘model villages’ project of BBA, more than 350 villages were transformed. A healthy environment was ensured for children, also the project also made sure that children from all these villages attended schools and prevented practices like child marriage and girl-dropout.
14. Soon after the 16th Lok Sabha elections’ results, this is what he tweeted to his about 100 followers. Needless to say, that follower count is now in thousands.
A tea-boy dares his detractors by becoming the PM of India. Now it’s his turn to ensure that no child is forced to become a child labourer.
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) May 20, 2014
15. The campaigner for justice, Satyarthi has been a subject of various documentaries, TV shows, and even films, and has been lauded globally. He has also received the Freedom Award, Defender of Democracy Award by the United States and the Medal of the Italian Senate. Hence it astonishes that he has never been awarded by the Government of India.
16. Being the 8th Indian Nobel laureate, he is also the first Indian born person to win the peace prize. He would be sharing the $1.25 million prize money with Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai, the young girl popularly known as the activist for girls’ education in Pakistan.