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Kailash Satyarthi

India , Class of 2007

Kailash Satyarthi

© Nina Robinson/BBC World Service (CC-BA)


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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi has freed an estimated 83,000 children from forced and bonded labor since the 1980s.

Born in the province of Madhya Pradesh, the young Kailash Satyarthi pursued a degree in electrical engineering. After graduating, he spent several years teaching at a college. His original NGO, BBA, began, in the early part of this millennium, to create governance bodies where children could have a voice in their communities, and to focus on how education could help prevent and stop child labor. They also still participate in rescue operations. Mr. Satyarthi himself has been brutally beaten several times during rescue operations. In 2004, he was taken to the hospital after being assaulted during a rescue operation of children from a circus.

He led the Global March Against Child Labour. While this is now an organization that networks between trade unions and other civil society organizations, it began as a literal march in 1998 around the world which culminated in a march upon the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The march was 80,000 kilometers long, and crossed 103 countries. That year, the ILO drafted Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which has been ratified by 177 of the 185 ILO member states. He also led the South Asian March Against Child Trafficking. That march was a month long, and crossed through India, Nepal, and Bangladesh in order to advocate for a regional protocol against forced labor in South Asia.

In 1994, Mr. Satyarthi founded an organization called Rugmark. This has since changed into what we know as Goodweave. According to their 2012 annual report, Mr. Satyarthi realized, even as he was just beginning his battle against child labor, that he had to not only fight to free the children enslaved, but also seek to reduce the demand by ensuring that people could buy carpets that were free from the evils of child exploitation. The organization does this by certifying that carpets and rugs are made without child labor. The first carpets with their stamp of approval were shipped in 1995. Since that date, they have 112 companies that have joined them in this effort, they have inspected over 220 thousand supply chains, they have rescued over 3,400 children, they have educated thousands more, and have generated over a million dollars of revenue from their sales that they have put back into social programs.

In 2007, Kailash Satyarthi was given a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award in recognition of his incredible efforts to combat forced labor, bonded labor, and child labor in the South Asia region. He has been given a host of other awards and, in 2014, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the 2014 TIP Report, India was listed as a Tier 2 country. It is a source, destination, and transit country. Although there is some sex trafficking, bonded labor and forced labor constitute India’s greatest problem. Fueled by historic and cultural class divides, including the mistreatment of the scheduled castes, ninety percent of trafficking occurs within India’s borders.

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