Why Kailash Satyarthi’s Nobel Prize Was A Win For Children The World Over

Exactly five years ago on October 10, 2014 came an important announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize for that year had been awarded to Kailash Satyarthi. Even Google servers were choked as people across the world were frantically searching for him on the internet. A man who had been fighting selflessly for the most marginalised and exploited children of the world since the 1980s had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Without being daunted by numerous near fatal attacks by slave masters of the children, without being deterred by the fact that two of his colleagues were killed in cold blood and his home and office looted several times, all that Kailash Satyarthi kept doing is to work for children across the globe.

Be it influencing national or international policies related to child rights, rescuing children through daredevil raid operations, instituting international research and capacity building of stakeholders for upholding the rights of children or leading global mass movements to bring in international legislations and institutions related to freedom, safety and education of children. Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize can be equated to the most marginalised and exploited children of this world winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a victory for the cause. Within three hours of the announcement, Satyarthi’s Twitter follower base rose from a meagre 75 to around 800,000. He is undoubtedly the pride of 1.3 billion Indians for the work he has selflessly done for the children of the world.

Whether we like it or not, we live in a world which is far from egalitarian. The most vulnerable are marginalised children and their communities are the worst affected by the inequalities. Worse still, young girls, women and the transgender community bear the brunt unsparingly and most disproportionately. Today, around 150 million children are languishing in child labour at a time when they should be at school and learning to build a foundation for themselves so that they become active stakeholders in the global growth story.

Out of these, around 70 million children are in worst and abject forms of exploitation as victims of trafficking for forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, child marriages, armed conflicts, slavery, prostitution and facing violence that one can’t fathom. Half of the refugees world over are children totaling up to close to 50 million in number who are at unprecedented risk of being forced into the dark dungeons of slavery, exploitation and violence.

In a population of 1.3 billion people, India has 3 million children who live on the streets and are vulnerable to exploitation. (Photo: sdfgsdfgasdr/Flickr)

The Nobel Prize website states that following the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi has waged a peaceful struggle to stop children from being exploited as labour instead of attending school. In fact, the Nobel Prize Committee had always wanted to confer Peace Prize to Mahatma Gandhi, but before they could have done so, he was assassinated. By conferring the peace prize to a truly deserving naturally born Indian Kailash Satyarthi, the committee also in a way paid tribute to the Mahatma for the opportunity it had missed in the late 1940s.

Kailash Satyarthi who works for children in over 140 countries on various forums has said that the Nobel Peace Prize is just a comma in his life and he is firmly resolute that he will see the end of child slavery within his lifetime. The Nobel Peace Prize was a shot in the arm for Satyarthi as overnight his mission to make a child-friendly world got global attention. This topic that was being brushed aside by governments world over as a matter of shame could no more be skirted.

The first thing that Satyarthi did after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 was to get Goal 8.7 included in the Sustainable Development Goals. This came with a deadline for ending child labour and exploitation in all its forms by 2025, i.e. five years ahead of 2030, because this is one goal without accomplishing which it is impossible to realise most of the other goals. He did not stop at this. To catalyse global action around this goal and the overarching endeavour for ending violence against children globally, he launched in 2016 Laureates and Leaders for Children – a platform that brings together Heads of States and Nobel Laureates to raise voice in support of the rights of the most marginalized children of this world, particularly ensuring their freedom, safety and education.

As another path-breaking intervention, He also launched the 100 Million for 100 Million campaign that mobilises the educated and privileged children and youth to hold hands of such children and youth whose rights have been violated. If one privileged child or youth steers one less privileged child or youth from exploitation to empowerment, 100 Million for 100 Million can make this world a far better place for all children.

India also saw a slew of initiatives since 2014 as a marked improvement for promoting the rights of its children. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016 brought the thirty-year-old anti-child labour law in conformance to the Right to Education Act. This also paved the way for the long-pending ratifications of the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age of employment and 182 on worst forms of child labour. The Central Government also promulgated the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules in 2016 in line with the JJ Act amended in 2015.

On September 11, 2017, he launched the largest Mass Movement Bharat Yatra (India March) in which 12,00,000 people marched from Kanya Kumari to Delhi covering 12,000 kilometres in various legs in demand for strict laws against child rape and child trafficking. This march culminated at Rashtrapati Bawan on October 16, 2017, and its impact was far-reaching and manifold. India’s laws against child rape and sexual exploitation of children were made extremely stringent.

Several states like Madhya Pradesh went ahead and promulgated progressive laws with the severest deterrence for child rape. The Ministry of Women and Child Development swung into action to strengthen the tenets of POCSO by amending it. This comprised stricter punishment for an increased range of offences including child pornography. Because of the demand of the core-marchers of Bharat Yatra, the National Sex Offenders Registry was also created.

This resulted in the creation of a robust database maintaining the name, address, photographs and fingerprint details of sex offenders that will further aid law enforcement agencies of India to efficiently conduct investigations and strengthen prosecution, which in turn will enhance the probability of conviction and justice to the victim.

Supreme Court of India in its own motion has taken cognisance of the poor law enforcement in POCSO cases and the pendency of cases related to sex crimes against children ordering the Central Government to make a special court in each district having more than 100 cases pending under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. This will expedite the justice delivery mechanism for the victims.

Kailash Satyarthi is now rallying support for a legally binding international law against online child sexual abuse and pornography and already has garnered support from various Heads of States and also Holy Father Pope Francis at The Vatican.

Earlier last week, Payal Jangid from one of the child-friendly villages formed by Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan became the first Indian to receive the Change Maker Award by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the same ceremony where our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also felicitated.

The Foundation awarded Payal owing to her indomitable will and unrelenting work to stop child marriages and child labour in her village and ensuring that all children particularly girls receive an education. She is one of the thousands of young change-makers who being inspired by Kailash Satyarthi is fighting for the rights of marginalised and exploited children.

Clearly, the global child rights movement started by Kailash Satyarthi is intensifying with each passing day with definitive actions and interventions to render this world child-friendly. Just like Satyarthi believes, even I am sure that we will be able to see the end of child slavery in this very lifetime.

Featured image source: Kailash Satyarthi/Facebook.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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