Kailash Satyarthi with children at Bal Ashram
Kailash Satyarthi (born on January 11, 1954) is a human rights activist from India who has been at the forefront of the global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labor since 1980 when he gave up a lucrative career as an Electrical Engineer for initiating crusade against Child Servitude. As a grassroots activist, he has led the rescue of over 80000 child slaves and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation. As a worldwide campaigner, he has been the architect of the single largest civil society network for the most exploited children, the Global March Against Child Labor,which is a worldwide coalition of NGOs, Teachers' Union and Trade Unions.
As an analytical thinker, he made the issue of child labor a human rights issue, not a welfare matter or a charitable cause. He has established that child labor is responsible for the perpetuation of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population explosion and many other social evils. He has also played an important role in linking the fight against child labor with the efforts for achieving 'Education for All'.
Mr. Satyarthi is a member of a High Level Group formed by UNESCO on Education for All comprising of select Presidents, Prime Ministers and UN Agency Heads. As one of the rare civil society leaders he has addressed the United Nations General Assembly, International Labour Conference, UN Human Rights Commission, UNESCO, etc and has been invited to several Parliamentary Hearings and Committees in USA, Germany and UK in the recent past.
As an advocate for quality and meaning ful education, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi has addressed some of the biggest worldwide congregations of Workers and Teachers Congresses, Christian Assembly, Students Conferences, etc. as a keynote speaker on the issue of child labour and education.
He is on the Board and Committee of several International Organizations. Amongst all the prominent ones being in the Center for Victims of Torture (USA), International Labor Rights Fund (USA), etc. Mr. Satyarthi is an executive Board Member of International Cocoa Foundation with the Headquarters in Geneva representing the global civil society.
He has survived numerous attacks on his life during his crusade to end child labour, the most recent being the attack on him and his colleagues while rescuing child slaves from garment sweatshops in Delhi on 17 March 2011. Earlier in 2004 while rescuing children from the clutches of a local circus mafia and the owner of Great Roman Circus, Mr. Satyarthi and his colleagues were brutally attacked. Despite of these attacks and his office being ransacked by anti social elements a number of times in the past his commitment to stand tall for the cause of child slaves has been unwavering.
He has been honoured by the Former US President Bill Clinton in Washington for featuring in Kerry Kennedy's Book ‘Speak Truth to Power', where his life and work featured among the top 50 human rights defenders in the world including Nobel Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wessel, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, etc.
He has edited magazines like ‘Sangarsh Jari Rahega', ‘Kranti Dharmi', and ‘ Asian Workers Solidarity Link'. Besides, authored several articles and booklets on issues of social concern and human rights.
He has set up three rehabilitation-cum-educational centres for freed bonded children that resulted in the transformation of victims of child servitude into leaders and liberators.
His life and work has been explicitly covered in hundreds of programmes on all the prominent television and radio channels including Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNN, ABC, NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian T.V., ARD, Austrian News, Lok Sabha TV etc. and profoundly featured in several magazines like The Time, Life, Reader's Digest, Far Eastern Economist, Washington Post, New York Times, Times London, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Independent, The Times of India, etc.
In addition, to the Global March Against Child Labor, other organizations he has founded and/or led include Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the Global Campaign for Education, and the Rugmark Foundation now known as Goodweave. He is the Chair of another world body International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE) in Washington, D.C. ICCLE is one of the foremost policy institution to bring authentic and abiding southern grassroots perspective in the US policy domain.
"The Global March Against Child Labour is a movement to mobilise worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free, meaningful education and to be free from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be harmful to the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."
Global March Against Child Labour is a movement born out of hope and the need felt by thousands of people across the globe - the desire to set children free from servitude.
The Global March movement originated under the aegis of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi with a worldwide march when thousands of people marched together to jointly put forth the message against child labour. The march, which started on January 17, 1998, touched every corner of the globe, built immense awareness and led to high level of participation from the masses. This march finally culminated at the ILO Conference in Geneva. The voice of the marchers was heard and reflected in the draft of the ILO Convention against the worst forms of child labour. The following year, the Convention was unanimously adopted at the ILO Conference in Geneva. Today, with 172 countries having ratified the convention so far, it has become the fastest ratified convention in the history of ILO. A large role in this was played by the Global March through our member partners.
With ILO conventions 138 and 182 as well as the UN Convention on Rights of the Child forming the base of our movement, the Global March also perceives education, and the Right to free and compulsory education of good quality for all children, as non negotiable. Therefore the Global March also considers the EFA goals under the Dakar Framework an equally important international instrument and pushes for governments to achieve the goal of education for all.
Working on numbers is one thing, and direct efforts to end child labour have always been a part of the Global March partner programmes. The Global March seeks to eliminate child labour by questioning, attacking and changing the very systems that compel children to work at the global, regional and national levels. What is key therefore, in the fight to end child labour, is the need to advocate for policy changes. The Global March works on a three pronged strategy, or what we call a triangular paradigm. The three key processes affecting the future of the world, in particular our children, are the elimination of child labour, Education For All and poverty alleviation. Bringing together policy and action for a unified response to child labour, illiteracy and poverty is a priority for the Global March.
The dedicated partners of the Global March movement form an effective network around the world. Acting as vigilant observers and lobbying with governments in their region, they form the backbone of the movement. The Global March International Secretariat is located in New Delhi, India.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) founded by Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is the ray of hope in millions of hearts, the first dream in their eyes, and the first smile on their faces. It is the sky and wings together for innumerable children, excluded from human identity and dignity, with a desire to fly in freedom. It is the tears of joy of a mother who finds her rescued child back in her lap after years of helplessness and hopelessness. It is a battle to open the doors of opportunities, a fire for freedom and education in the hearts and souls of thousands of youth committed to wipe out the scourge of slavery and ignorance from the face of mankind.
Rugmark (brainchild of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi) (now known as Goodweave) is an international consortium of independent bodies from a dozen carpet exporting and importing countries, which take part in a voluntary social labeling initiative to ensure that rugs have not been produced with child labor. This initiative gives positive alternatives to responsible businesses, protecting them from any possible boycott and sanctions and gives an ethical choice to consumers worldwide. He is pursuing the industries and other stakeholders to adopt a similar system for knitwear, sporting goods and the other international common products.
The GoodWeave label is the best assurance that no child labor was used in the making of your rug. In order to earn the GoodWeave label, rug exporters and importers must be licensed under the GoodWeave certification program and sign a legally binding contract to:
Adhere to the no-child-labor standard and not employ any person under age 14 2.Allow unannounced random inspections by local inspectors 3.Endeavor to pay fair wages to adult workers 4.Pay a licensing fee that helps support GoodWeave’s monitoring, inspections and education programs To ensure compliance, independent GoodWeave inspectors make unannounced inspections of each loom. If inspectors find children working, they offer them the opportunity to go to school instead, and the producers lose their status with GoodWeave. To protect against counterfeit labeling, each label is numbered so its origin can be traced to the loom on which the rug was produced.
GoodWeave also sets contractual standards for companies that import certified rugs. Importers agree to source only from GoodWeave certified exporters in India, Nepal and any other country in which GoodWeave rugs are available. In the United States and other rug-importing countries, only licensed importers are legally permitted to sell carpets carrying the GoodWeave label.
Importers and exporters also help support GoodWeave and its commitment to provide rehabilitation and schooling for all rescued children. Exporters pay 0.25 percent of the export value of each rug, and importers pay a licensing fee of 1.75 percent of the shipment value. Licensing fees go toward monitoring, inspections and educational programs that are part of the GoodWeave program.
GoodWeave's certification standards are set by GoodWeave International, an associate member of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance (ISEAL), which leads the world in setting norms and good practices for certification. GoodWeave's national offices in producer countries implement and enforce the standards.
Soon, the GoodWeave label will mean even more. In order to further the mission to end child labor by addressing the root causes of the problem, GoodWeave's certification standard will include other environmental and social criteria, guided by ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice. Licensees will be required to demonstrate that their employees are working under safe conditions for a reasonable wage, among other requirements. GoodWeave certified rugs will become greener, as licensees work to identify negative impacts of production as well as ways to mitigate them. Each producer will work with GoodWeave to develop a plan for improving working conditions and environmental impacts over time.
The International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE) is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing worldwide efforts to advance the rights of all children, especially to receive a free and meaningful education and to be free from economic exploitation and any work that is hazardous, interferes with a child's education, or is harmful to a child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. The Center serves as the international advocacy office of the Global March Against Child Labor, a movement representing some 2,000 organizations in 140 countries intended to highlight child slavery and hazardous child labor. The Center also serves as a clearinghouse – for the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge on global child labor issues. ICCLE has built up a great deal of goodwill and respect by being a key player in the establishment of the Global Task Force on Child Labor and Education with UNESCO, the World Bank, ILO, UNICEF, and the Global March. Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is the founder of ICCLE and is on the Board.
The life and work of Kailash Satyarthi have been the subject of a number of documentaries, television series, talk shows, advocacy and awareness films, Magazines and news items of all leading print and electronic media worldwide. Satyarthi's contribution has been recognized through several prestigious international awards. These include:
- Nobel Peace Prize 2014
- Defenders of Democracy Award (2009-USA)
- Alfonso Comin International Award (2008-Spain)
- Medal of the Italian Senate (2007-Italy)
- Heroes Acting to End Modern Day Slavey by US State Department (2007-USA)
- Freedom Award (2006-USA)
- In October 2002, Satyarthi was awarded the Wallenberg Medal from the University of Michigan in recognition of his courageous humanitarian work against the exploitation of child labor.
- Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Award (1999-Germany)
- La Hospitalet Award (1999-Spain)
- De Gouden Wimpel Award (1998-Netherlands)
- Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (1995-USA)
- The Trumpeter Award (1995-USA)
- The Aachener International Peace Award (1994-Germany)
Satyarthi lives in New Delhi, India. His family includes children, his wife, a son, daughter-in-law, a daughter, colleagues and friends.