By Noel Caballero / Bangkok / After spending a lifetime rescuing children working as slaves, Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, is hopeful that political boundaries will get erased one day from the world so that refugee children don’t suffer like they do in the United States.
With this aim in mind, the activist three years ago began a campaign, “100 million for 100 million”, which empowers privileged children to raise their voices and strive to end the exploitation of the underprivileged ones.
Satyarthi’s organization Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (save childhood movement) has rescued over 86,000 children from being employed as laborers – a feat which won him the Nobel that he shared with Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist, five years ago.
The activist addressed teachers from all over the world in Bangkok this week during the world congress of the Education International – a worldwide federation of teachers’ unions.
In an interview with EFE, Satyarthi highlights the importance of education for “globalizing a message of compassion”, apart from underscoring the role of teachers and the need for consumers to act responsibly.
Q. – What would you say to US President Donald Trump, or any European leader, about having very tough policies against immigrants or refugees, as many of them are children?
A.- I would particularly talk about children, who are the worst sufferers of these policies or this mindset. Children have never created borders, they have not created boundaries, they don’t know how the walls are created, but they are suffering (from them).
So leaders must realize that this Earth, the whole planet, belongs to everyone, every child. Any policy which victimizes children, and sometimes separates children from their parents, is against the wish of God and is unacceptable.
I am someone who dreams of a world without borders, without narrow nationalities, without divides in humanity in the name of identities. One day this world will come, we will see this world one day, may be not within 5-10 years, but one day.
Q. – What is your opinion about the new generations? Are they prepared to lead the fight for change?
A.- The deeper thought behind the “100 million for 100 million” campaign was very simple “let’s globalize compassion”. We have globalized the market, economies, productions (…) everything, and we are facing the consequences, like global warming, violence and wars. This is the time to rethink and think of an alternative.
(We need) the globalization of something which is inside each one of us. And that is compassion, and that means feeling the suffering of others as if it’s your own suffering. Compassion will help in creating more kindness, gratitude, more sense of global responsibility. That can come from young people. If they lead the world, the world would be different.
In the last two years, it (the campaign) has spread across 35 countries and more than a million young people physically participated in it. They have helped in changing policies, laws, budgetary allocations (..) in a number of countries like India, Sweden and Germany.
Q. – At a time when religion is losing power in developed countries, is education the key to spreading the message of compassion?
A.- Education is the most powerful vehicle towards sustainable change and development. Education is a key to justice, equality, empowerment (…). If we fail in education, we fail in all spheres of life.
Q.- Giving the voice to the young people, to the next generation, are you somehow looking for a successor to take over your place?
A.- I am trying to create not only one successor, but 100 million leaders. It is a unique initiative of its kind, that for the first time, at the global level, students and other young people are joining hands and forging an alliance. The teachers can (also) play an important role as helpers, supporters, facilitators, guides for the young people. I am confident that this (teacher-student) alliance is going to happen.
(This week) I had the chance to talk to several teachers’ union leaders from all across the world. I feel very encouraged that these teachers are willing to give more space to the young people and accept them as leaders. I see a world where the youth are sitting on the driving seat.
Q.- Many multinational companies took advantage of child labor and child slavery, but they were not punished. They have become more famous and earned more money…
A.- Some of the companies made considerable reforms once they were exposed (for) using child labor in their supply chain. That is good, but it’s not enough. That is why we have been demanding that countries should have strong laws to stop the use of child labor.
But, it is much more important to change the consumers’ behavior. If a particular brand is using child labor (…) and there is a large-scale protest against it, say 10-20 million young people send a strong email to the boss, it cannot be ignored.
Responsible consumerism also includes other issues, such as the climate, democracy (…).
Q. – The sustainable development goals pledge to end child labor by 2025. There are six years left to this deadline now. Is it possible (to achieve this goal)?
A.- We have seen the decline of child labor from 260 million to 150 million in 16 years. So the goal is achievable, but it requires mass mobilization, strong laws (…) and political will.
Unfortunately, children are not yet the political priority in the world. If the children were our priority, what we are seeing in the US, Greece and Italy, would have never happened. It is going to take more (than six years).
(July 26, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)