Life has not changed for Nobel peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, who still believes that he has a long way to go and that his cause of eradicating child labour has a long path of struggle ahead.
Satyarthi, awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize along with Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, says that the award is a tribute to the hopes of millions of parents who long to unite with their lost children.
Addressing reporters in the National Capital, Satyarthi said that this international recognition shared by two South Asians holds great significance. Appreciating Malala for her courage, he asserted that sustainable peace between India and Pakistan could only be possible if people of both countries started valuing each other’s concerns and dignity.
Recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, Satyarthi said, “One thing I have learned from this great man is the ability to translate basic fundamental values into a movement. We should also try to translate compassion into a social cause”.
Responding to a Zee Media question whether the award had garnered more attention for the subject of child labour, he said that previously several documentary films had been made on the topic but the focus of discussion and debate was not so intense. “The amount of curiosity about child labour that this award had generated within eight hours of being declared, I don’t think it has done so in 800 years,” he added.
Satyarthi was also excited about his meeting with PM Narendra Modi. “If the PM and the President are excited about my work, what else can I ask for?” he said.
He further revealed that his biggest fight has been against the mindset of people globally. For the struggle against oppression of children he emphasised the need to allocate more funding for education. “Both developing and developed nations should spend more on children’s education. We need $18 billion to educate all the children in the world. That’s less than the world’s military expenditure in three days,” he said.
Satyarthi added that the global community needed to widen its perspective which has become narrow. However, he felt that over the years the child labour problem has improved slightly. He recalled how 15 years ago he and his colleagues would have to remain hungry the entire day during campaign marches because most roadside eateries would employ child labourers. “But today this has reduced to a large extent because the poorest of the poor has started valuing education. There has been a paradigm shift from education for employment to education for empowerment,” Satyarthi said.
On the role of social media in spreading awareness about social causes, Satyarthi felt that although it is very useful, it needs to be used carefully and constructively since it is easy to spread misinformation over the internet. He, however, felt that mainstream media could play a significant role to highlight important social issues.
“India may be the mother of 100 problems but India is also the mother of 1,000 solutions. I will live long and we will all live long to see the abolition of child labour one day,” an optimistic Satyarthi affirmed.