Kailash Satyarthi with children at Bal Ashram
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is an internationally acclaimed child rights activist from India who has been at the vanguard of the global movement to end child slavery and exploitation of children since 1980. 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 87,000 child slaves and developed a successful model for their holistic rehabilitation and re-integration into the mainstream society with a particular emphasis on their most basic right to education. He founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) to rescue children and their families from the shackles of slavery paving way for their reintegration into mainstream society with the help of state actors under the legal policy framework of India.
As a worldwide campaigner for drawing the international spotlight on the plight of the most vulnerable and marginalized children, 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 also played an important role in linking the fight against child labor with the efforts for achieving 'Education for All'.
Mr. Satyarthi had been a member of a High Level Group formed by UNESCO on Education for All comprising select Presidents, Prime Ministers and UN Agency Heads. As one of the rare civil society leaders Mr. Kailash Satyarthi has addressed the United Nations' General Assembly, International Labour Conference, UN Human Rights Commission, UNESCO and several Parliamentary Hearings and Committees in the US, Germany, UK, Italy, Brazil, Panama, Nepal, Spain, Chile to name a few.
As an advocate for quality and meaningful education for all children irrespective of caste, creed, gender, ethnicity socio-economic background and cognitive abilities, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi addressed some of the biggest worldwide congregations of Workers and Teachers Congresses, Christian Assembly, Students Conferences among others.
He has been on the Board and Committee of several International Organizations. like the Center for Victims of Torture (USA), International Labor Rights Fund (USA), etc. Mr. Satyarthi has also been an executive Board Member of International Cocoa Foundation with the Headquarters in Geneva representing the global civil society.
He survived numerous attacks on his life during his crusade to end child exploitation. Earlier in 2004 while rescuing children from the clutches of a local circus mafia and the owner of Great Roman Circus in Gonda District of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Satyarthi and his colleagues were brutally attacked. Despite these attacks and his office and home being ransacked a number of times in the past his commitment to stand tall for the cause of child slaves has been unwavering.
He was 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'. He also authored several articles and booklets on issues of social concerns and human rights with children being the focal point.
He set up three rehabilitation-cum-educational centres for freed bonded children that resulted in the transformation of survivors of child servitude into leaders and liberators in their own right.
In addition, to Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Global March Against Child Labor, other organizations he has founded and/or led include the Global Campaign for Education, and the Rugmark Foundation now known as Goodweave. He has also been 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 institutions to bring authentic and abiding southern grassroots perspective in the US policy domain. He has also founded Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation to advocate for creation and implementation of child-friendly policies ensuring holistic development and empowerment of children across the globe.
The Global March Against Child Labour is a movement to mobilize 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 all forms of exploitation posing threat to their physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. The Global March movement originated under the aegis of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi with a worldwide march when thousands of people marched together across 103 countries covering over 80,000 kms with a demand for a strong international law against worst forms of 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 Heads of States, bureaucrats, child rights organizations, trade unions, teachers’ organizations and the masses alike. 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. The partners and constituents of Global March under the aegis of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi actively advocated with the global stakeholder across countries for ratification of ILO convention 182, which became the fastest ratified convention in the history of ILO.
Rugmark (brainchild of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi) (now known as Goodweave) is the first ever corporate social responsibility initiative in the world when the acronym CSR was not even coined. It is a voluntary social certification scheme of independent bodies from carpet exporting and importing countries to ensure that rugs have not been produced by child labourers or under conditions of human rights violation. This initiative gives positive alternatives to responsible businesses, protecting them from any possible boycott and sanctions and gives an ethical choice to consumers worldwide. Mr. Satyarthi thereafter worked with other industries (like garments; minerals, sports goods, cocoa, spices etc.) and stakeholders to adopt a similar system keeping human rights at the fore.
The International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE) is a 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. 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 was on its Board.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is also the architect and leader of Global Campaign for Education (GCE) a civil society movement working to end the global education crisis and ensuring that States deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality public education. He successfully spearheaded a countrywide movement to make education a Constitutional Provision which subsequently paved way for the Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education in 2009 in India.
In the wake of the brutal-gang rape and murder of a 23 year old paramedic student in Delhi in December 2012, Mr. Satyarthi played the pivotal role in steering the Indian Civil Society with a conspicuous demand for amendments in the Indian Criminal Law to counter Rape and Gender Based Violence that eventually led to the promulgation of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
In 2014, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Mr. Satyarthi’s sustained efforts to end child slavery, trafficking, forced labour and violence received international support when he succeeded in getting child protection and welfare-related clauses included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations back in September 2015.
Mr. Satyarthi is the Founder of Parliamentarians without Borders - a Movement that unites legislators across the globe in an endeavour to end violence against children. He also addressed the General Assembly of Inter Parliamentary Union (the global body constituting all parliaments) soliciting support of law makers for child friendly policies.
The first ever moral platform - Laureates and Leaders which happens to be strongest podium for the cause of children across the globe has been engineered by Mr. Kailash Satyarthi.
His unrelenting efforts to synchronize the Indian Child Labour Act with The Right to Education Act and other International Conventions and Treaties that India is signatory to, led to the promulgation of the New Child Labour Law in 2016. On several occasions Bachpan Bachao Andolan under the auspices of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi has been able to secure landmark judgments from various High Courts and Supreme Court of India related to Missing Children; Definition of Trafficking; Establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units; Registration and Regulation of Placement Agencies; Recovery of Back Wages & Ensuring compensation for survivors of modern slavery among others.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi envisions a world where the Youth realizes its truest potential as the agent of positive social transformation. It is for this reason he launched the 100 Million for 100 Million Campaign in December 2016. This campaign is a global intervention to mobilize 100 million youth for shaping a better future of 100 million not so privileged children.
In 2017, raising a clarion call against child sexual abuse, Mr. Satyarthi led the 12,000 Km Bharat Yatra (from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari) taking along the child abuse survivors; civil society organizations; politicians across party lines; bureaucrats; celebrities and faith leaders to put the national spotlight on this pressing issue.
To achieve his vision of a world free of violence against children – where all children are free, safe, healthy and enrolled for quality education, he founded Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation. The Foundation’s raison d'êtreis to advocate for creation and implementation of child-friendly policies ensuring holistic development and empowerment of children across the globe.
The life and work of Kailash Satyarthi has been the subject of a number of films, documentaries, television series, talk shows, advocacy and awareness films, magazines and news items of all leading print and electronic media worldwide. Mr. Satyarthi's contribution has been recognized through several prestigious national and international awards. Some of these include:
- Santokhba Humanitarian Award 2018
- Honoris Causa in Science, Amity University (2018- India)
- Doctor Honoris Causa 2017, EL Rector Magnífico de la Universidad Pablo de Olavide
- Guinness World Record 2017 for Largest Child Safe Guarding Lesson
- Doctor of Law (LLD), West Bengal University of Juridical Sciences (2016-India)
- Doctor of Humane Letters, Lynchburg College (2016-USA)
- Member-Fellow, Australian Institute of Management (2016)
- Harvard Humanitarian Award (2015-USA)
- 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 Slavery 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.