Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi leads a fundraising drive to unite children in UK, India

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi leads a fundraising drive to unite children in UK, India
Courtesy: JC Olivera / Stringer | Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Forced labour, human trafficking, child marriage, child prostitution and slavery are the gruesome faces of the current pandemic that have handcuffed children’s happiness for decades. Having rescued more than 1,00,000 children from this civilisational crisis is Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi who is on a permanent mission to ensure that every child in the world has the right to freedom.

The humanitarian hero was welcomed on the virtual fundraiser hosted by Amish Tripathi, Director of the Nehru Centre in London, in a special “Children of UK for the Children of India” initiative to raise funds while uniting the children of different parts of the world.

Starting with an appeal from five-year-old London schoolgirl Samaya, who donated £1,180 towards the Satyarthi Foundation’s efforts, the appeal has gone on to attract thousands of pounds to help children in need in India during the pandemic.

“The children of UK have garnered Rs 23 lakhs (£230,000) already and we hope to garner more for the Satyarthi Foundation with this effort,” said Tripathi.

No risk, no reward

During the Nehru Centre discussion, Satyarthi reflected on his journey, leaving behind a career as an electrical engineer to dedicate over 40 years to address the problem of child labour, because to him “child labour in any part of the world is our problem”.

During his childhood, Satyarthi recalls encountering a five-year-old cobbler boy while on his way to school staring at his feet to make a living.

The response from the cobbler boy’s father, “you are born to go to school, and we are to work like this at the cost of our childhood”, awakened and shook the activist to the core about the brutal circumstances that people are faced with.

Jeopardising his life during raids and rescue operations, Satyarthi declares that he hasn’t won yet but rather the fight is still on. After liberating 36 children from a brothel, the joy of freedom on the children’s smiling faces and the tears of pain rolling down their mothers’ cheeks were simply “a glimpse of god” to Satyarthi.

He expresses this power and encouragement: “Each time I free a child, I feel like I have freed myself.”

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Compassion from the heart

Since its establishment, the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation has been desperately fighting to eradicate child labour in approximately 600 villages across India. From distributing over 560,000 meals to arranging medical kits with medicines, face masks, oximeters and other necessities for families in villages and slums, the volunteers have also been spreading awareness about Covid-19 to the people.

After learning that the neighbouring villagers were falling short of masks, the rescued young boys in the Bal Ashram at Virat Nagar in Jaipur took the task of utilising their stitching skills to make around twenty thousand masks which were then distributed to those villages.

Satyarthi articulates: “You are all sons and daughters of this great land. India may be a land of 100 problems, but my motherland is the mother of a billion solutions.”

Powerful campaigns

At the forefront of the 1998 ‘Global March Against Child Labour’, Satyarthi and other supporters across 103 countries marched a distance of 80,000 kilometres over a period of five months. This march successfully drew the attention of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva to adopt Convention 182 to prohibit the Worst Forms of Child Labour the following year.

With much humiliation, Satyarthi reveals that this was the only largest social movement to have been held worldwide till today.

He exclaims, “it is the poverty of our intent for the children, poverty of our care for children.”

To prevent the violation of child rights, his foundation has embarked on vast campaign drives such Mukti Caravan – Campaign on Wheels, Rape Free India, KeepChildrenSafeAtHomeCampaign. The 100 Million campaign was launched with the brilliant plan of mobilising 100 million youth to work together towards alleviating another 100 million marginalised children.

To save the child slaves found at the bottom of the supply chains of large multinational and national corporations in the world, Satyarthi advocates his ‘supply chain of gratitude’. He says that we can convert gratitude into action by being thankful to those who have helped us with each coming day.

The United Nations has recognised the urgency of eliminating child labour in the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for 2025 and has dedicated this International Year for the elimination of child labour.

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For a better future

The first wave of the pandemic brought with it an enormous increase in child trafficking which traces back to orphaned children due to the deaths of their parents. He recites a poem of grief written by his daughter about a toddler who laid beside her mother’s corpse: “Open your eyes Maa… Are you pretending Maa because you don’t have milk for me?”

The fact that Satyarthi along with his colleagues had rescued 11,000 children during the lockdown startled him.

“No treason has been committed by the children, but they are suffering. They are the biggest victims and sufferers of these walls, barriers and boundaries which we created.”

Satyarthi asks a question that makes every parent skip a heartbeat: “If you are in a strange, crowded place, can you leave your children behind when you are moving forward?”

In a brief video clip, acclaimed film director Raj Kumar Hirani assures that the people of India as well as the Indian diaspora abroad can offer their help to the less fortunate children: “Let’s not count our burden. Let’s just count our blessings.”

Satyarthi’s message: “We are all born with wholesome of compassion. If we can discover it, we can embrace the whole world.”

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