By Penelope Macrae, AFP
NEW DELHI — Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi told AFP he believes child labor can be eradicated in his lifetime, calling for everyone in the world to “take a stand” against the practice no matter their cultural background. Satyarthi, 60, was on Friday jointly awarded the prize with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage education campaigner shot by the Taliban in 2012. The Indian activist was recognized for decades of doggedly championing children’s rights in his home country and worldwide and argues that poverty should not be an excuse for child labor. The Nobel prize has given the anti-child labor movement new “global visibility” and “should be a mobilizing factor,” Satyarthi told AFP in an interview. “I am hopeful this (practice) can end in my lifetime,” he said. But for child labor to be wiped out, “You, me, everyone must take a stand. Otherwise it won’t be possible,” he pleaded. “That means saying ‘no’ to products made by children,” Satyarthi added. “It’s a question of humanizing the problem and seeing each child as a person caught in a desperate situation.” Satyarthi quit his electrical engineering career in 1980 to set up the grassroots Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save Childhood Movement, based in New Delhi, which rescues children working under often horrifying conditions. He recounts that he was inspired “by a passion to help child workers” when aged six he saw another boy his age, who could not go to school because his family was too poor, repairing shoes. The low-profile father-of-two in 1994 started Rugmark, now called GoodWeave International, that tags carpets as child-labor free and heads the Global March Against Child Labor, which unites 2,000 social groups and unions in 140 nations. The number of child workers worldwide has fallen by one-third since 2000, but still remains as high as 168 million children, according to the International Labor Organization. ‘Laws must be strengthened’
The tally of child workers in India is a matter of debate, but Unicef, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates around 28 million Indian children are employed.