A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meet Kailash Satyarthi- Child Rights Defender. Literally.

I have met many people who go out on a limb for social change, but Kailash Satyarthi literally risks his. Liberating children from bonded child labour is no easy task. But that is what Kailash and the team of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) do, and then rehabilitate the children back into the community. So far over he has liberated over 40,000 bonded labourers, including 28,000 children.

This is Indian Jones meets Social Entrepreneurship.

I have been putting off writing this posting. Mostly because it is so difficult to do justice to his work, and I have been thinking incessantly about my time with the BBA gang and the kids at the Ashrams since my visit.

So, for now, I’ll just share some snippets.

Arriving at the Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation home for boys in Rajasthan, about a five hour drive from Delhi, the children came running to us. When they saw Bhuwan, Kailash’s son (and also a leading human rights activist in India), the kids flocked. When Kailash arrived they went wild. A bucket of water was produced and there followed a magic water fight, all of us loving every moment. What makes it all the more pertinent is that just weeks or months before, these kids were locked in some factory, likes slaves to industry.

There followed a weekend of pure joy. We played games. Sang. Danced like never before. Listened to Kailash, Bhuwan and the team recount the stories of the ‘raids’ they conduct on factories. Ate great food. Joked. I asked if the party is a rare occasion (where the kids spend a couple of hours in the evening singing and dancing). Nope. It happens every night.

A few days later, I also got to visit the girl’s Ashram, closer to Delhi. Again, the same atmosphere prevailed. I connected with a little girl called Pooja. She looked about 5 at most. Tiny limbs. Shy at first, then opening up. I was told later that she was 8. The conditions in the place she had worked had stunted her growth to that extent.

The ‘Raid and Rehabilitation’ model is controversial work. Not all agree with the approach, but the recognition and awards with Kailash has won is testament to his stamina and conviction. The joy and growth of these kids is enough to convince me.

You can read more on Kailash Satyarthi on http://www.kailashsatyarthi.net/
He is also profiled in Speak Truth to Power and The New Heroes.

Kailash is founder of Global March for Children and board of The Global Campaign for Education.

He was also nominated for the Nobel Prize this year (I am hoping his day will come soon).

A privilege and honour to share time with him, the team and the kids. Thanks to all, and especially to Priyanka from Global March for helping me to arrange the visit. My time there is a prize in my memory bank. Unforgettable.


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