Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi from India impressed me with his clear vision and his engagement against child labor and for more tolerance.
His main demands:
- The biggest crisis knocking on the doors of humanity today is intolerance.
- Let us globalise compassion, and set our children free.
- Let’s walk together. In the pursuit of global progress, not a single person should be left out or left behind in any corner of the world, from East to West, from South to North.
- Let us democratize knowledge.
- Let us march from darkness to light.
- I call to put an end to all forms of violence against children.
The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, introduced the more unknown Nobel peace Prize Laureate and his engagement for the hard-working-children in December 2014:
“Kailash Sathyarthi’s vision is quite simply to put an end to child labour. Since he abandoned a promising career as an electrical engineer in 1980, this has been Sathyarthi’s overriding aim. He has worked at several different levels to achieve it. At grass-root level he has achieved the release of some 80,000 children, sometimes in very dramatic circumstances. He has often been brutally attacked. It takes little fantasy to imagine the reaction when he and his co-workers go into worn-down factory premises round about in India to set the children free. Powerful interests have profited from child labour. They do not give up without a struggle. Satyarthi himself has adhered to non-violence.The child laborers are not infrequently recruited by kidnapping, but are often also hired out by parents who cannot manage their debts. Enslavement to debt remains very widespread, not only in India but also in many other countries.”
Satyarthi insists that it is not poverty that leads to child labour. Child labour maintains poverty, carrying it on from generation to generation.School attendance releases people from poverty.
Satyarthi has developed a model for how liberated children can be rehabilitated and provided with education. They must be provided with a basic education to enable them to some extent to function as normal citizens rather than as slaves. He has set up a number of different organizations which work both in India and internationally to fulfil children’s rights. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is perhaps his most important instrument, taking direct action to set children free.
Satyarthi’s struggle is marked by great inventiveness. Rugmark, established in 1994 (now Goodweave), is a striking example. It is an international consortium of representatives of countries which export and import rugs. We can all by simple means check that a rug has not been made by child labourers. A network of inspectors has been set up to ensure that the system works. The children get to go to school, and the adult workers earn a fair wage.
Exporters and importers pay a small fee to keep up this system of inspections and controls. Efforts are in hand to spread the scheme to other products often made by child labour, such as knitted goods and sports gear.
On the 17th of January 1998, Satyarthi embarked on his biggest project: The Global March Against Child Labour. Seven million children and adults took part in this march, which entered many different countries and regions. The march wound up at the ILO headquarters in Geneva. The following year the ILO convention against the worst forms of child labour was unanimously adopted. The convention has currently been ratified by 172 countries. No ILO convention has been ratified more quickly. ILO conventions 138 and 182, and the UN “Convention on the Rights of the Child”, now form the basis of the world-wide struggle against child labour and for education.
Much nevertheless remains to be done. There are roughly 60 million child labourers in India alone, most of them in farming. If the country were to ratify the two ILO conventions, that would be a big step in the right direction.
There are currently 168 million child labourers worldwide. In the year 2000, the figure was 78 million higher. In this, as in so many other areas, things are thus moving in the right direction, and often much faster than we think. Satyarthi indeed believes that child labour can be more or less eliminated in his own lifetime.”
It is worth to read the full text of his Nobel Lecture here.
See as well our GLOBALO film about him.
Here are some words from Kailash that I would like to highlight:
- „There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children.
- The single aim of my life is that every child is:
free to be a child,
free to grow and develop,
free to eat, sleep, see daylight,
free to laugh and cry,
free to play,
free to learn, free to go to school, and above all,
free to dream.
- All the great religions tell us to care for children. Jesus said: “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.” The Holy Quran says: “Kill not your children because of poverty.”
I refuse to accept that all the temples and mosques and churches and prayer houses have no place for the dreams of our children.
- I refuse to accept that the world is so poor, when just one week of global spending on armies is enough to bring all of our children into classrooms.
I refuse to accept that all the laws and constitutions, and the judges and the police are not able to protect our children.
I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be stronger than the quest for freedom.”
Kailash Satyarthi described intolerance as a main threat to world peace:
- “Friends, the biggest crisis knocking on the doors of humanity today is intolerance.
- We have utterly failed in imparting an education to our children. An education that gives the meaning and objective of life and a secure future. An education that builds a sense of global citizenship among the young people. I am afraid that the day is not far when the cumulative result of this failure will culminate in unprecedented violence that will be suicidal for humankind.
- Yet, young people like Malala, are rising up everywhere and choosing peace over violence, tolerance over extremism, and courage over fear.”
Passivity of the silent majority as a main cause for the influence of extremists and nationalists.
Therefore I agree to his words:
- “I challenge the passivity and pessimism surrounding our children.
- I challenge this culture of silence, this culture of neutrality.
I, therefore, call upon all the governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses, faith leaders, the civil society, and each one of us, to put an end to all forms of violence against children. Slavery, trafficking, child marriages, child labour, sexual abuse, and illiteracy have no place in any civilised society.
Friends, we can do this.
- Governments must make child friendly policies, and invest in education and young people.
- Businesses must be more responsible and open to innovative partnerships.
- Intergovernmental agencies must work together to accelerate action.
- Global civil society must rise above business-as-usual and scattered agendas.
Faith leaders and institutions, and all of us must stand with our children.
We must be bold, we must be ambitious, and we must have the will. We must keep our promises. appeal to become active.”
What a great man and visionary of children’s rights and peace!