‘A recognition for neglected children’
Kailash Satyarthi has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against child labor. In an exclusive DW interview, the activist talks about the importance of the prize and plans to work alongside co-winner Malala. For decades, Kailash Satyarthi has dedicated his life to helping millions of children forced into slavery. Born in India in 1954, the electrical engineer founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), or the Save the Childhood Movement, a non-profit organization aiming to eliminate child trafficking and labor, in 1980.
The BBA has raided thousands of sweatshops or private homes to rescue the children forced to work there. Satyarthi also frequently takes part in street demonstrations to raise awareness on the issue and was a leader of the 1998 Global March Against Child Labour, which crossed 103 countries.
On October 10, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Satyarthi and 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Referring to the 60-year-old Indian activist the Nobel Committee said: “Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.”
In a DW interview Kailash Satyarthi speaks about the reasons that drove him to take on the fight against child labor, the obstacles he has faced along the way and his plans for the future.
DW: What does this prestigious award mean to you and your work?
Kailash Satyarthi: The award gives me more strength and power in the fight against child slavery and exploitation, as it is the biggest recognition ever for the cause of child rights, particularly to eradicate child labor.
It’s a great honor and recognition for the voices of hundreds of millions of children who have been neglected or ignored. The award is therefore very important for my cause.
What drove you to take a stand against child labor?
I’ve been quite passionate about the issue since my childhood and during my student life. I then came to the conclusion that I had to work for the children who are deprived of their childhood. But when I began my work there wasn’t much awareness regarding the issue of child labor.
There was therefore no one to learn from, but slowly I realized that child labor amounted to a violation of fundamental human rights, as well as a denial of freedom and of a good future. So we took on the challenge and began the fight which has had a gradual ripple effect.
What obstacles have you had to face in your struggle against child labor?
Child labor is a social evil so we have to fight in order to change the mindset of the people. The practice is unlawful and a crime against humanity. It is therefore necessary to ensure that laws are in place and being properly implemented. It is also a struggle against the mafia and organized criminals.
It has always been a tough fight. I lost two of my colleagues: one was shot dead and the other one was beaten to death. Moreover, my family and I have been attacked on numerous occasions. So it hasn’t been easy. What I have come to realize is that those trying to kill me or my loved ones are notorious people who feel challenged by my work.
How much work is still left to eradicate child labor in India?
There is still a lot to do. But as I said, the award will inspire many activists and civil society organization to help draw attention to this struggle at many different levels, both in government as well as in the private sector. I hope this will help raise awareness and increase pressure on all those who are exploiting children and profiting from their labor.
The prize was also awarded to Pakistani citizen and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. How do you feel about an Indian and a Pakistani sharing such a prestigious prize, especially given the recent escalation of tensions in the region?
I respect Malala. She is a wonderful young lady. I spoke to her on the phone after the announcement and we talked at length about how we can fight together on many issues, including education for girls and child labor. But more importantly, we also discussed about how to restore and create an environment of peace both in our region as well as globally.
Will this award change your work in any way?
The fight against child labor will go on as before. The only thing is that I work in over 140 countries, under the umbrella of the network Global March against Child Labor. After this award, my partner organizations and fellow activists worldwide may demand my presence more often. So I think the only thing that may happen is that I get to travel more often than before.
Interview: Gabriel Dominguez
Date13.10.2014 | 14:02