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end child slaveryKailash Satyarthi has devoted his life’s work to one goal: to end child slavery. In 1980, Satyarthi quit his job as a teacher and founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which translates to Save the Childhood Movement. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is an organization that has freed over 87,000 children from slavery to date.

Achievements

In 2014, Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize for the “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” Additionally, he has been working at the United Nations to push governments to prioritize goals focusing on children and their needs, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Satyarthi also founded the Global March Against Child Labor in 1998. It is “the largest civil society network for the most exploited children.” The march stretches across 103 countries. Moreover, it resulted in “the unanimous adoption of the [International Labor Organization] Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.”

Fight for Freedom

Alongside his team, Satyarthi works in the field on dangerous missions. These missions involve physically going into factories where children are forced to work and attempting to liberate them. The team regularly faces a large amount of backlash from factory owners who want to exploit children for increased profits. At times, clashes have turned violent. In these cases, those on Satyarthi’s team suffer injuries, with Satyarthi himself having ended up in the hospital on occasion. However, the team believes this risk is worth it to end child slavery.

Once liberated, Satyarthi and his team bring the children to the Bal Ashram, where the children are cleaned and fed. The children’s parents are then contacted. Parents are only able to take their child home upon providing documentation to prove their relationship to their child.

If they choose to, children can also return to the Bal Ashram to receive a proper education. In offering this, Satyarthi ensures children have the opportunity to get a well-paying career and not return to child labor.

Mobilization

On top of his work in the field, Satyarthi began a letter-writing campaign. His campaign involved over 15,000 people writing to the top 100 American retailers and asking them not to sell products created by child labor. Unfortunately, retailers in Western countries continue to exploit child slavery in developing nations to maintain lower prices. However, these retailers hold the power to fight child slavery should they demand their manufacturers to stop child labor.

In 2016, Satyarthi started the 100 Million campaign, an initiative that pushes for 100 million children around the globe “to speak out for the world’s more than 100 million child workers.” Satyarthi hopes that an empowered youth can enact positive change. As such, empowered youth can raise awareness of and fight to end child slavery in their respective nations.

Kailash Satyarthi has not only devoted his life to an incredibly noble cause but has actually enacted the positive change that he desires to see in the world. While there are still millions of children in slavery, the number has been steadily declining. With the efforts of the brave men, women and, most importantly, children who are helping Satyarthi in his goals, child slavery may one day become a thing of the past.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Global March Against Child Labor
In 1998, a group of forward-thinking activists organized the Global March Against Child Labor. It took groups from over 100 countries to lead a march that crossed 103 countries and ended at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 1998, where activists from all over the world rallied to end child labor.

In response, the ILO began the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002. Every year on June 12, governments, citizens and civil societies gather to focus the world’s attention on child laborers and create campaigns to help them.

The movement has lofty ambitions but is still doing a great job of fulfilling them. Before the turn of the millennium, there were nearly 250 million children who were child slaves. The figure has now dropped almost 100 million and is estimated to be around 168 million.

Girls in particular have benefited from this as their numbers have dropped nearly 40 percent since then, while boys have dropped 25 percent. Despite this, some 88 million children still work in potentially fatal jobs.

Like many problems that need to be solved, one method employed in the reduction of child labor is simply raising awareness. The Global March Against Child Labor has proven to governments and civil societies around the world that this is something that needs to be stopped.

The U.S. Department of Labor has played a critical role in producing promotional documents and reports that have been quite successful in raising awareness of this terrible issue. Additionally, USAID acknowledged the power of video and strung together compelling footage in what eventually came to be a feature film about child labor, titled “Stolen Childhoods.”

USAID has played a big role as well in raising awareness. Through the Global Labor Program, USAID has helped workers in Liberia mobilize against employers and has ensured that any exploitative wage practices were discontinued. As children were typically employed in rubber plants in Liberia, USAID managed to ensure that children would not be separated from their parents if they worked, and also oversaw the building of a school on the plant. The employers agreed to pay the adults a living wage.

Another entity that is vital to ending child labor is business. Thanks to the Global March Against Child Labor and USAID’s awareness campaigns, a spotlight has been placed on businesses and their obligation to ensuring that children are not working.

The most prominent advocate of this is the program GoodWeave. This is a system by which companies in India can be certified to ensure that children are not used in the creation of rugs or carpets. Since its inception in 1995, GoodWeave has approved of over 11 million carpets. In that time, the number of children who work in carpet factories has dropped from 1 million to 250,000.

The Global March Against Child Labor was the beginning of a bold social movement, but now we must celebrate and continue its ongoing achievements.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: USAID Blog, International Labour Organization, U.S. Department of Labor, Global March
Photo: List Top Tens