Winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 came as a surprise to Kailash Satyarthi even though he had been nominated for the honour in 2006 as well. That year the award went to Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
As the architect of the Global March Against Child Labour and Global Campaign for Education, Mr. Satyarthi, who has worked in 144 countries, says that “every child in each country is dear to him.” He believes the award will be a “turning point” in the struggle for the rights of children. There are 16.5 crore child labourers in the world of which 6.5 crore are in India.
Speaking of the prize, he said: “It must be read between the lines not only by the governments but by the peoples of both countries. Not having peace is a curse for children. They should be born in peace, live in peace and should enjoy their childhood and freedom of education in peace. We cannot ignore the fundamental principle of peace,” he said.
For him personally the sight of a cobbler’s son working outside his school in Vidhisha in Madhya Pradesh tugged at his heart. “I was unable to digest why some children were born to work and some were born to go to school.’’
After abandoning his job as an electrical engineer and working with some NGOs, in 1980 he founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Children Movement) which is focused on ending bonded labour, child labour and trafficking. The organisation is credited with rescuing over 80,000 children from bondage, trafficking and exploitative labour since it came into existence.
Mr. Satyarthi was part of the movement to make education a constitutional provision which paved the way for the right of children for free and compulsory education in 2009. He is a member of the high-level group formed by UNESCO on Education for All on which select presidents, Prime Ministers and UN agency heads are represented.
Among the first to congratulate Mr. Satyarthi on Friday on winning the Nobel Prize was former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is also a member of a high-level panel on education.
He is also credited with bringing about Rugmark (now known as Good Weave) in 1994 which is a certification and social labeling for child labour-free carpets in South Asia. Since then he has been involved in promoting corporate social responsibility initiatives in the garment manufacturing, mica mining, cocoa farming and sporting goods sector.