GoodWeave’s Nina Smith on Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi–an engineer of freedom
My long-time friend, colleague, and mentor has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kailash Satyarthi is a hero to many people, all of them certainly glad that this kind, original, and tenacious man has at last received such recognition. As my career has been devoted to advancing and realizing his ideas, I want to offer some insight into the individual who has driven the global movement to end child labor.
Because of his work, we now know there are 168 million child laborers worldwide. They used to be invisible.
Kailash started risking his life for these children more than 30 years ago, when he broke into Indian factories to emancipate them. Early footage of him doing this “raid and rescue” work showed the world that child slavery exists.
Along with his wife, Sumedha, he helped those he rescued to recover and find their place in the world, and he put their stories on the global stage, shaming lawmakers and companies into acknowledging the systemic exploitation of children for economic gain.
Kailash’s problem-solving approach sets him apart. He worked as an electrical engineer before he became a freedom fighter, and he draws on the critical, analytical thinking of his trade to advocate for the world’s forgotten children.
Kailash is a true social entrepreneur who created numerous programs and organizations that together form a robust movement that targets the root causes of child labor. He would interject here to emphasize that this has been, by necessity, a collective effort. But he has been a leader at almost every stage of the journey to reform the systems that enable child labor.
My connection to Kailash is through GoodWeave, an organization that he created in 1994. At that time there were over 1 million children weaving carpets in South Asia alone.