GoodWeave’s Nina Smith on Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi–an engineer of freedom

[This article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor on October 21, 2014]

By Nina Smith, GoodWeave International 

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.

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The Philippines

The Philippines has 2.9 million child laborers but in its 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, USDOL said the country was making “significant” progress in dealing with the problem.





CLC PRESS RELEASE: Child Labor Coalition applauds progress in child labor remediation suggested by US government’s 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

For immediate release: October 14, 2014
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820,

Washington, DC–The Child Labor Coalition (CLC), whose 34 member organizations fight exploitative child labor, welcomed news in the US Department of Labor’s 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor report released last week, suggesting significant progress is being made in the war to reduce child labor internationally. “The report is another sign that good progress is being made in efforts to reduce child labor around the world,” said Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the CLC and executive director of the National Consumers League.

According to USDOL, nine percent of the countries assessed—nearly one in 10—reported “significant advancement” in their child labor responses, and half of the countries assessed experienced moderate advancement. Nearly six in 10 countries assessed made significant or moderate advancement; 36 percent—just over one in three—were judged to have made minimal or no advancement.

“The numbers look even better if you dig a little deeper,” said Greenberg. “The 13 countries that USDOL said had made significant advancement are mostly ones that have battled substantial child labor problems—advancement in those countries (Albania, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uganda) is very encouraging.”

“Likewise,” Greenberg said, “the 13 countries that made no advancement included only five countries with large numbers of child laborers: the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.” The other eight countries on this list include several small island nations. “If you compare numbers between the 2011 assessment period and the new report covering 2013,” said Greenberg, “the progress is dramatic: the number of countries making significant child labor advancement went from two to 13; those making moderate advancement went from 47 to 72. Those are encouraging results.”

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CHILD LABOR COALITION PRESS RELEASE: The Child Labor Coalition applauds the selection of Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai as recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize

Washington, DC – The Child Labor Coalition (CLC), a group of 34 organizations dedicated to fighting exploitative child labor, is celebrating the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai—two tireless and courageous advocates for the universal education of children and child rights. For the past 25 years, the CLC has worked closely with Satyarthi, who has freed tens of thousands of child slaves, to reduce child labor around the world.

“Last week, a true champion in the fight to end child labor was rightfully recognized by the international community,” said Sally Greenberg, CLC co-chair and executive director of the National Consumers League. “The number of child workers worldwide continues to decrease, and we must thank tireless advocates like Kailash Satyarthi for championing this effort. Satyarthi has committed his life to ensuring that children have access to education and a childhood. Satyarthi’s efforts have helped pull millions of children out of child labor and given these children new opportunity and hope.”

“There are no two people more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), also an organizational co-chair of the CLC. “Their courageous efforts in fighting for universal education and protecting children from exploitation and abuse are making our world a better place for generations to come. The right to an education is too often taken for granted. Malala and Kailash’s work reminds us that much still needs to be accomplished to ensure that all children, regardless of gender, family income, religion or homeland, are able to go to school and have the chance to reach their God-given potential.”

“The Nobel Prize is a fitting tribute to Kailash’s years of selfless dedication and vision,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, a CLC’s co-chair and AFT’s secretary-treasurer. “We have made much progress together, but in many ways our work has far to go. We look forward to continuing to stand with Kailash in the fight against hazardous labor, modern-day slavery, and human trafficking as we strive to achieve quality education for the world’s children.”

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The National Consumers League’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2014: An Annual Guide to Help Teenagers Select Safe Employment and Protect Themselves on the Job


Jobs for teens are an important part of youth development, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. A survey from Citigroup and Seventeen magazine released in August of 2013, found that almost 80 percent of students take at least a part-time job during the school year. Many teens take summer jobs. A job can build confidence, teach social skills, and provide an array of other benefits. According to research in the January/February 2011 issue of Child Development, teen jobs decrease the likelihood  working teens will drop out of school—as long as teens work 20 hours or less each week during the school year—and they increase future earnings [Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies].

However, there are dangers associated with teen work. In a typical year, 25-35 children die at work in the U.S. Twenty years ago, that number was over 70. To some extent, these dropping numbers are a result of fewer teens working. Since the recession of 2007, too many teens have been competing for too few jobs. The summer of 2014, however, saw some improvement in the summer teen job market. The youth unemployment rate in July was 13.6 percent—the lowest rate in 6 years. However that rate is still over twice the adult unemployment rate. We believe that health and safety education efforts are also helping to reduce teen fatalities.

Every 12 and a half days a child dies at work. In 2012, 29 children died while working. That number may seem small compared to the more than 4,500 adults who died that year, but for every family that loses a teen, their preventable deaths are an unspeakable tragedy.

This report is an attempt to educate the public about workplace dangers teen workers face with the hope that teenagers, their parents, and employers can work together to reduce accidents and fatalities. Jobs held by teenagers can contribute meaningfully to a child’s development and maturity and teach new skills and responsibilities, but the safety of each job must be a consideration.

Many teens lack the experience and sense of caution needed to protect themselves from workplace jobs. In scientific speak, “young workers have unique and substantial risks for work-related injuries…because of their biologic, social, and economic characteristics.” They are reluctant to refuse to do tasks just because they are dangerous or to ask for safety information. Research on the developing brain suggests that there are neurological reasons why teens do not always evaluate dangers properly—that portion of their brain is still developing.

In the following pages, the National Consumers League (NCL) identifies five teen jobs that are more dangerous than most and provides tips to help teens improve their chances of having a safe and rewarding work experience.

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