Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi Calls for More Action to Curb Child Labour During Pandemic

© Photo : Kailash Satyarthi's PR teamKailash Satyarthi
Kailash Satyarthi  - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.09.2021
After earning a degree in electrical engineering, Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel laureate, worked as a teacher in Madhya Pradesh. In 1980, he quit teaching and founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an India-based organisation that has freed thousands of children from exploitation.
Kailash Satyarthi, an activist from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for the "struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to [an] education". He shared the coveted prize with Malala Yousafzai, an activist from Pakistan, who fought for girls' rights to receive an education.
Sputnik: You have been working to bring the impact of COVID on the most vulnerable children and communities to the attention of the international community. What kind of impact does the virus have on people?
Kailash Satyarthi: The pandemic has had a very harsh impact on children, especially those who belong to economically marginalised sections of society. This is true not just for India but worldwide. We have seen a phenomenal increase in the number of children being pushed into jobs after their parents lost their source of livelihood due to the adverse impact on the economy.
Children are vulnerable to be exploited, are made to work unimaginably long hours for a very small amount of money. Our organisation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Campaign), has helped rescue hundreds of children during the pandemic who were forced to fend for themselves or their families because their parents lost their jobs. As the pandemic gets prolonged, schools remain shut, more and more children will be struggling for their survival.
Sputnik: Can you tell us more about the Fair Share to End Child Labour Campaign? What has been the response globally?
Kailash Satyarthi: It is very alarming that for the first time in two decades, the number of child workers has increased - from 150 million to 160 million worldwide, as per data. What is more shocking is that this increase happened in the four years that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic.
The world's wealthiest governments have announced trillions [in assistance], but not for those who need the help the most. We are allowing the world's poorest children to pay with their lives. We have not just a health crisis at hand, but also a crisis of equality and justice. The world has more than enough of wealth to ensure that every child is able to go to school instead of having to work for their basic survival.
World leaders must allocate to the poorest and most marginalised children their fair share of global wealth, channeling it through government budgets. There are plenty of examples worldwide which show the positive impacts of such payments - like the Mid Day Meals in India. Millions of children were getting a nutritious meal in schools, provided by the government. But since schools have closed down, so have these meals. Now there is more than ever a reason for distributing the world's wealth equitably.
Sputnik: You have been demanding a Global Social Protection Fund. What is its significance in the global post-COVID recovery plan?
Kailash Satyarthi: There is a direct link between families suffering from poverty and child labour worldwide. We have been rallying for a Global Social Protection Fund that will provide some kind of social security to the most marginalised section of society in order to ensure that children of the family can be taken care of and given the basic rights of food and education.
When the pandemic struck last year there were clear warnings that the economic fallout will spell disaster for children. Protection of children needs a lot of political will and a lot of urgency and action which has sadly been not there at a desirable pace.
Globalisation of compassion is need of the hour. The United Nations General Assembly must give priority to the elimination of child labour and that can only be done if countries globally join hands to tackle this menace.
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