Biography of Kailash Satyarthi:
Kailash Satyarthi is a renowned Indian child rights activist and the winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. He is the founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an organization dedicated towards the eradication of child labor and rehabilitation of the rescued former child workers. Child labor is a rampant problem in India where millions of young children are engaged in various forms of work instead of attending schools. Satyarthi has been working as a children’s rights activist from the past many years and has liberated over 80,000 child laborers since 1980. Even as a child he was moved by the plight of other children who were made to work by their parents, and wanted to do something for them. He studied to become an electrical engineer but this profession gave him no satisfaction. While in his mid twenties, he ditched a lucrative engineering career to work for the welfare of child laborers, many of whom were forced to work by their parents while others were held as bonded laborers by business houses. He formed the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA)—literally meaning, ‘Save Childhood Movement’—in order to cerate awareness about this widespread evil and to rescue children from the clutches of bonded labor. He has been honored with several awards for his relentless humanitarian work, including the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 which he shares with the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzay.
Kailash Satyarthi was born on 11 January 1953 in Vidisha, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, a state in India. Even as a child he was a very compassionate individual. He noticed that some children did not go to school like he did and instead worked under harsh conditions to earn money.
Disturbed by the inequalities he witnessed, he decided to do something about it. He asked his classmates to donate textbooks and money to the underprivileged so that the poor kids too got a chance to study.
He studied electrical engineering in a Bhopal college and went on to earn a post-graduate diploma in high-voltage engineering.
After his graduation he began working as an engineer. A lucrative career lay ahead of him but the young man’s heart was not in an engineering job. He wanted to help people, especially the poor children who worked as bonded laborers and thus he quit his job.
He started a journal called ‘The Struggle Shall Continue’ in 1980 in order to create awareness about the problem of child labor. When he learned of a factory in which children were forcibly kept and made to work, he decided it was time to take action.
He joined hands with a group of like-minded people and conducted raids on factories from where he rescued several children and their parents who were held as bonded laborers. This was a dangerous idea and he often got beaten up.
Appalled by the wide-spread nature of the problem he formed the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a movement dedicated towards eradication of human trafficking and bonded child labor.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan was the first organization of its kind in India which worked to enlighten the society about the rampant evil of child labor and highlighted the importance of rescuing these children and providing them the chance to live a normal and healthy life.
The success of the BBA led to the creation of the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) in 1989. SACCS has till date liberated several thousands of child laborers working in different industries.
Kailash Satyarthi realized that the work did not end with the rescue; these children needed to be rehabilitated so that they could live a normal life. Thus the Bal Ashram was formed in Rajasthan where the newly-rescued children are taught basic skills.
In 1998, he led the Global march against child labor. The march was a grassroot movement to motivate individuals and organizations to do their bit in the fight against child labor. Several international organizations supported this march.
He has served as a member of the UNESCO’s Education for All and has addressed the U.N.’s General Assembly, International Labor Conference, and U.N. Human Rights Commission.
He formed the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the first organization in India which highlights the issue of child labor and works towards rescuing the children who are forcibly made to work in different industries. His works have so far led to the rescue of several thousands of child laborers who are provided opportunities for rehabilitation.
Awards & Achievements:
He received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1995 in recognition of the significant contributions he had made to human rights in India.
Satyarthi along with Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousufzai won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
Personal Life & Legacy:
Satyarthi is married and is the father of two grown children, a daughter and a son. His extended family also includes many of the former child laborers that his organizations have rescued.
His works have been covered by several television and radio documentaries and he has been featured in many prominent magazines like ‘Reader’s Digest’, The Time’, ‘Washington Post’, and ‘New York Times’.
On January 8, 2015, Kailash Satyarthi dedicated his Nobel Peace Prize medal to the nation (India). The medal, in 18 carats gold and weighing 196 grams, is kept at Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House) museum.
“Today it is time for every child to have a right to life, right to freedom, right to health, right to education, safety, the right to dignity, right to equality, and right to Peace” – Kailash Satyarthi