Kailash Satyarthi has a better idea than high-powered weapons and draconian security measures. He believes the best defense plan is education. If young people are taught to think for themselves, if they have the prospect of jobs and a good quality of life, they are less likely to go off the rails.
He knows this from experience. In 2014 he and Malala Yousafzai shared the Nobel Peace Prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Satyarthi did not plan to become a rescuer of child slaves. He was an electrical engineer until, at the age of 26, he founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement). That was in 1980. In the decades since then he and the organization he launched have freed more than 82,000 child workers. Their efforts began in the stone quarries, brick kilns and carpet factories in India and have expanded to other industries and other countries. They campaign tirelessly for anti-child labor and anti-trafficking laws.
The work is dangerous. He has suffered broken bones and severe beatings while rescuing children. Nothing deters him.
His concern for the plight of children began early. He was only six when he saw a boy sitting outside the school. He wanted to know why and was not satisfied when the headmaster and his parents insisted poor children did not go to school.
His compassion grew with his years. So did his dislike of the caste system. He gave up his high-caste family name and adopted “Satyarthi”, which means a seeker of truth.
A humble man, Satyarthi dreams of seeing an end to child labor in his lifetime. One of the ways he moves closer to that goal is through the Bal Mitra Gram. These are child-friendly villages, where all children attend school and are educated in gender equality and civic participation.
One group of child slaves at a time, one class of educated children after another, Satyarthi moves ever closer to realizing his dream.