Kailash Satyarthi

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Kailash Satyarthi
Child Labour: India, 1986-2012; India Today
Kailash Satyarthi: a long march; India Today

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



i) Who is Kailash Satyarthi? TNN | Oct 10, 2014 The Times of India

ii) Kailash Satyarthi

iii) RFK Center

iv) Architects of peace

v) Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

vi) Kailash Satyarthi braved bullets to save kids by Swati Mathur, The Times of India TNN | Oct 11, 2014

vii) Sumedha: The woman who launched Kailash Satyarthi's journey Ambika Pandit, The Times of India TNN | Oct 11, 2014

Nobel laureate

Kailash Satyarthi, along with Pakistani child rights activist Malala Youzsafzai, was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize in October 2014. Prize motivation: "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education"

Satyarthi is an Indian child rights activist born in Vidisha, about 50km from Bhopal.

Nobel acceptance speech, 10 Dec 2014

The Times of India

Here are top five things that Satyarthi said in his acceptance speech.

1.Children are questioning our inaction and watching our action.

2.My dream is to make every child free to develop ... There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of children.

3.Recounting his experience with the unprivileged people, he said, "I am representing the sound of silence of millions of children who are left behind."

4."The credit to this honour goes to people who worked and sacrificed for freeing children," he said.

5."I've lost two of my colleagues," Satyarthi said about his work. "Carrying the dead body of a colleague who is fighting for the protection of children is something I'll never forget, even as I sit here to receive the Nobel Peace Prize."

Alexandra Topping of The Guardian added: He recalled rescuing an eight-year-old girl from slavery. “When she was sitting with me in my car, she asked me: ‘Why did you not come earlier?’ Her angry question still shakes me and has the power to shake the whole world. What are we doing? What are we waiting for?”

During a pasionate speech he said despite rapid period of globalisation, governments and citizens still lacked empathy for others around the world. “There is one serious disconnect and that is the lack of compassion,” he said. “Let us inculcate and transform individual compassion into global compassion. Let us globalise compassion.”

Beyond Nobel

He was Googling for a cheap ticket to Germany when the call came. It was the afternoon of October 10, 2014. "Kailashji Nobel," his friend sounded incoherent on the phone. Intrigued, he put the phone down and Googled 'Nobel'. After a few seconds, it started blinking: his name.

Two years later, what does winning the Nobel mean to him. Clad in a crisp white kurta-pyjama, Kailash Satyarthi, 62, sits behind a huge desk, blending with the autumnal austerity around him: a room with bare white walls, furniture in every shade of brown, and lots of light. Through the huge windows, you see the blue sky beyond and the tops of trees that skirt Friends Colony in New Delhi. You can also see the easy smile across his grey-bearded face: "For me, it's just a comma, not a full-stop."


For many, a Nobel is often the crowning recognition of a lifetime's work. For Satyarthi, India's fifth Nobel and second Nobel peace prize winner, it has been, expectedly, a life-changing event-catapulting the relatively little-known child rights activist, and his organisation, the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, to international recognition, putting him in great demand for lectures, talks and seminars at prestigious global fora. "Suddenly, you become a VIP, wanted everywhere," Satyarthi says. But it has also been two years of relentless, back-breaking work, he says, of knocking on a million doors, closed to most-in search of a new dream.

"It has been the biggest recognition for the rights of the most marginalised and deprived children," he says. "Never before has there been a Nobel for this cause. It gave a deeper sense of commitment to what I do." And that has led him to launch a new platform, Laureates and Leaders, and a new movement, '100 Million for 100 Million', or calling upon 100 million young people to learn about their own rights and the lives of children living in unimaginable situations. On December 10 and 11, sharing the dais at Rashtrapati Bhavan with Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and a host of Nobel laureates and world leaders, President Pranab Mukherjee flagged it off with the message: "This global endeavour for mobilising 100 million youth and children is the beginning of a change that was long overdue. It is only appropriate that the campaign begins from India, which has the largest population of youth in the world."


Satyarthi has never followed formulaic compulsions: of career, livelihood, the next big project or opportunity. An electrical engineer by training, he stumbled into a territory-the world of child labour-that excited him enough for it to become his calling: be it the magazine he started, Sangharsh Jaari Rahega (The Struggle will Continue), in the 1970s to document the lives of vulnerable people, or the nonprofit he founded, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) in 1980 or his first unsuccessful raid on a brick-making plant to rescue children working as bonded labour in 1990. There has also been his campaign with the United Nations since 2000, to include freedom from child labour as a sustainable development goal in the Millennial Charter. "I have been saying for the past 15 years that a child needs to be free to enjoy the fruits of development," he says.

The Nobel suddenly made his dream real. "I got into intense activity from October 2014," he recalls. "I went around the world, using the power of the Nobel, and all doors opened." He presented his case to the UN, the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation, met presidents and prime ministers, from Barack Obama to Francois Hollande. "It took me a year," he says. "In September 2015, for the first time there were two Indians addressing the audience at the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and me." Today, the UN has incorporated all his concerns-eradication of child labour, slavery, trafficking and forced labour, protection from violence, inclusive, equitable and quality education for all children-as a sustainable development millennial goal.


Then came act two. A different league, a different commitment, a different stepping stone. Every time he was invited to various platforms with other Nobel laureates from various fields, it allowed him to push his agenda. "Many of these scientists live in a different world of knowledge, emerging from their labs after 8-10 years, so to say. And they were hardly aware of the various ways the world exploits children as slave labour, the plight of refugee children, victims of violence, conflicts and natural disaster," he explains. "I tried to connect with them." As he narrated his stories, he found them in tears, with many asking, 'Mr Satyarthi, how can we help?'.

On one such poignant evening in Stockholm, Sweden, Satyarthi remembers picking up a candle lying in a corner, asking his hosts for a matchstick and lighting it. "I recited the ancient Vedic shloka, Asato ma sadgamaya. From ignorance, lead me to truth from the darkness of suffering, lead us to the light of compassion." It was a 'pledge' of some sort by the laureates, to build a dynamic platform of global leadership that would fight for the freedom of children.


There is a lesson in everything. And the crucial lesson Satyarthi learnt in his nearly four decades of work with children is that "today they face things earlier generations never faced before", be it trafficking or terror. "As the world takes giant leaps, in wealth or technology, children suffer the most in times of transition," he points out. "I believe that is because there is a serious moral deficit all around us, from business to governments to NGOs to temples and mosques." Who will speak for the children, he asks.

What else? Even 20 years ago, he points out, welfare was the state's singular responsibility. Corporates functioned mostly with profit in mind. And NGOs were primarily in charity. But with changing times, three strong stakeholders have emerged-the state, corporates and civil society-all questioning structural issues, all trying to find solutions. "They must all come together, build mutual trust and work towards righting the glaring wrongs suffered by the most vulnerable in society-children."

An unassuming man pursuing audacious dreams? But he has faced all the highs and lows of a charmed life: threats, assaults, a broken spine and limbs and has lost friends and colleagues in the course of his work. "But I've also met, hugged, shared meals and stories with millions of children across 140 countries. How many can say that?" True. Believe in your dreams. That's Satyarthi, always.

Personal details

Born January 11, 1954, Vidisha, India

Education Satyarthi studied engineering at the Govt Engineering College, Vidisha


Satyarthi stays at L6 Kalkaji (New Delhi). He used to stay at DDA Flats Kalkaji a few years ago.

His family includes children, his wife, a son, daughter-in-law, a daughter, colleagues and friends.

Kailash Satyarthi married Sumedha (born 1955) on October 8, 1978. Sumedha is Currently a director who manages Bachpan Bachao Andolan's Jaipur Bal Ashram .She lovingly calls Satyarthi "Saabji" and her husband sometimes refers to her endearingly as "Deviji".

The family, as a principle, doesn't use a surname (i.e. caste name).

The couple first launched a publication called "Sangharsh Jari Rahega" to give voice to the concerns of the underdog. Their fight for the rights of Children caught in bondage began from a rented room in Delhi’s Minto Road where the couple then lived.

Their lawyer son, Bhuwan Ribhu, leads BBA workers and is a noted activist.

Satyarthi's daughter Asmita, 29, an economics graduate, works for the rights of children and has joined campaigns, including the fight against children working in the fire-cracker industry.


"Child labor must not become the nation's social safety net."


1980: he was appointed as General Secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and is since then fighting for the abolition of social injustice and slavery, especially of children.

1989: he was co-founder of the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude -(SACCS), a group of more than 750 civil society organizations in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

Since 1992: he has been chairman of the SACCS. Kailash Satyarthi made significant contributions to establish the RUGMARK seal to label products that originate from certified organisations without child labourers. Furthermore, thanks to the commitment of Kailash Satyarthi, the rehabilitation centre 'Mukti Ashram' in Delhi and 'Bal Ashram' in Jaipur were built for former child slaves. Today, 18 education centres in different states of India are present.

In 1998, he organised the "Global March Against Child Labour," 80,000 km all the way through Asia, Africa, America, Australia and Europe and ending in Geneva. There, in June 1988, he spoke in front of the 86th ILO-Conference.

2014: Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

The man

He was an electrical engineer. For a while before launching BBA, he was a professor in Bhopal. Then he moved to Delhi and began his advocacy against child labour.

He gave up his career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to start Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save the Childhood Movement.

A leading worldwide advocate for quality public education and the elimination of child labor practices, Kailash Satyarthi is also a Speak Truth To Power Defender.

Satyarthi is India’s lodestar for the abolition of child labor. Since 1980, he has led the rescue of over 75,000 bonded and child slaves in India and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation. Kailash has emancipated thousands of children from bonded labor, a form of slavery where a desperate family typically borrows needed funds from a lender (sums as little as $35) and is forced to hand over a child as surety until the funds can be repaid. But often the money can never be repaid—and the child is sold and resold to different masters. Bonded laborers work in the diamond, stonecutting, manufacturing, and other industries. They are especially prevalent in the carpet export business, where they hand-knot rugs for the U.S. and other markets. Satyarthi rescues children and women from enslavement in the overcrowded, filthy, and isolated factories where conditions are deplorable, with inhuman hours, unsafe workplaces, rampant torture, and sexual assault.


Today, the non-profit organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan he founded is leading the movement to eliminate child trafficking and child labour in India. The organisation has been working towards rescuing trafficked children since 1980. It receives information from a large network of volunteers.

As an advocate for quality and meaning full 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 has led the rescue of over 78,500 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. 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.

Bachpan Bachao Andolan

in 2013, through Satyarthi's initiative in Meerut, 15-year-old Raziya Sultana, a child labourer BBA rescued and rehabilitated, won the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Award.

Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) was founded by Mr. Kailash Satyarthi.

As an engineering student in Vidhisha, Kailash Satyarthi once came across a cobbler, whose son, who was less than 10 years' old, was helping him instead of going to school. Satyarthi asked why. The response was unassuming: "We're poor. Extra hands mean extra money." Satyarthi, then 26, walked away unable to help, but convinced there was need for an initiative to rescue poor children being exploited for financial gains.

Education, he thought, would be their road to emancipation. That led to the birth of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in 1980. Satyarthi started BBA to rescue children from bondage. In 34 years, the organization has conducted thousands of raids, reintegrating rescued children into society, ensuring they get an education. In states like Haryana, he led rescue missions for kids and families of bonded labourers in mining and manufacturing, braving murderous attacks.

Scaling up BBA's work wasn't easy. Though the yearning for freedom existed in every family or child he rescued, Satyarthi — popularly known as bhai saab — faced resistance.

Some of those he wanted to rescue were scared to break free of their shackles, others like the cobbler Satyarthi was too poor to afford sacrificing an extra hand. BBA continues to operate in Meerut and Lakhimpur districts, adopting nearly 130 villages, converting them into child-friendly zones.

Global March Against Child Labor

Sathyarthi started with the basics by turning the public opinion of child slavery from one of apathy and denial to a profound acknowledgment as a pertinent and urgent concern in the minds of prominent decision makers. He then worked to philosophically label it as a human rights concern instead of a welfare matter by arguing that child labor is largely responsible for the agreed upon social evils of illiteracy, poverty and population explosion. Riding this ideology, he created the Global March Against Child Labor, one of the most powerful civil society movements for social change, that is now active in over 140 countries, and has made massive progress in the implementation of international laws against child labor.

"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.

Speak Truth to Power

Kailash Sathyarthi has actively championed Speak Truth to Power, opening the campaign’s photo exhibit in Lugano, Switzerland in 2007 and participating in a training program for the Speak Truth to Power educational project in Milan, Italy.

Other organizations founded by Satyarthy

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.

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.

The Global March works on a three pronged strategy, or what they 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 Global March International Secretariat is located in New Delhi, India.


Satyarthi founded Rugmark, an international conglomerate of independent companies from a dozen countries that import and export carpets. "Rugmark" is the social label given only after a field inspection verifies that the carpet was made without child labor. Through Rugmark, responsible businesses have been given an alternative to Child labor, adults have been given employment opportunities, and consumers across the world have been given an ethical choice.

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.

International Center on Child Labor and Education

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.

Dangers encountered

Satyarthi has faced false charges and death threats for his work. The constant death threats are taken seriously—two of Satyarthi’s colleagues have been murdered. He has been recognized around the world for his work in abolishing child labor. Satyarthi organized and led two great marches across India to raise awareness about child labor. On the global stage, he has been the architect of the single largest civil society network for the most exploited children, the 'Global March Against Child Labor', active in over 140 countries.

Indian Poilce Service officer Amitabh Thakur recalls: "I met Satyarthi in June 2004 at Karnailganj, Gonda. He had been beaten up by owners of the Great Roman Circus while attempting to rescue Nepalese girls. He was bleeding profusely. Police pulled him out from a rather precarious situation and helped rescue a dozen girls." Thakur was Gonda police chief then.

Satyarthi 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.

Little known in India till the Prize

Why did the media ignore Kailash Satyarthi? , journalist Kingshuk Nag asked in The Times of India's blogs on October 10, 2014 after the announcement of the Nobel Prize:

“I had not heard of Kailash Satyarthi till the news broke about him being awarded the Nobel peace prize for 2014. I checked with many friends; none of them had any clue about who he was. The blame for this ignorance is on the media of the country, who are responsible directly and indirectly for holding a mirror on to happenings in the country.

“As mediapersons we spend an inordinate amount of energy in concentrating on trivia, on leggy beauties and the rantings of the neta class and what we think is news

“But don’t blame the media alone. Has the government recognized Satyarthi for his efforts? By all accounts, no. Though I have no means of checking, I guess the government has not even conferred him with a Padma Shri, much less a Padma Bhushan. In fact beyond the NGO circles there may not be any awareness about the man who won the Noble prize and his work.

“A colleague comes in and tells me about his previous organization, where there was a reporter who used to often quote Kailash Satyarthi and his Bachpaan bachao Andolan. He adds: but we banned the reporter from writing on this matter; we felt there was a surfeit of Satyarthi and his movement. Everybody was getting bored.


In an interview to The Times of India about four months before the Nobel award, Kailash Satyarthi had said, "My philosophy is that I am a friend of the children. I don't think anyone should see them as pitiable subjects or charity. That is old people's rhetoric. People often relate childish behaviour to stupidity or foolishness. This mindset needs to change. I want to level the playing field where I can learn from the children. Something I can learn from children is transparency. They are innocent, straightforward, and have no biases. I relate children to simplicity and I think that my friendship with children has a much deeper meaning than others."

Satyarthi admires Mahatma Gandhi and has likewise headed various forms of peaceful protests "focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain," the Nobel committee said.

International affiliations

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.

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 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.

Biographies of Satyarthy

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.

Honours received

Satyarathi 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.

Satyarthi's contribution has been recognized through several prestigious international awards. These include: - 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)

2015: Harvard’s Humanitarian award

The Times of India, October 18, 2015

Nobel Peace Prize 2014 recipient Kailash Satyarthi has become the first Indian to be honoured with Harvard University's prestigious 2015 Humanitarian of the Year award.

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