Few were surprised to hear of the selection of Malala Yousafzai for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, but, alongside the famed young Pakistani girl was another, less well-known child activist also being awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, Kailash Satyarthi. Satyarthi is a 60-year-old Hindu Indian, who quit engineering and teaching in 1980 in order to take up the torch for child labour and human rights. He has worked tirelessly in his own country, as well as the international arena, to rid society of the damaging practice of child exploitation, which often also takes place under the duress of dangerous working conditions, minimal to no wages, and bonded labor.

To date, Satyarthi has rescued over 83,000 children, and counting, from the perils of child labor. In the vein of Gandhi, and under the banner of eliminating the exploitation of children for financial reasons, he has organized numerous peaceful marches and demonstrations, cultivated and participated in many international conferences, and even directly contributed to the development of Convention 182 with the International Labour Organization, which addresses the harshest types of child labor and is now applied by governments across the world.

The Nobel Peace Prize is not his first international recognizance either. Satyarthi won the Aachen Peace Prize in Germany as far back as 1994, and has easily won a dozen more major international prizes for his efforts since. Despite all this, and the more recent fame of the Nobel Peace Prize, Kailash Satyarthi remains humble and his ambition and dedication to his cause has not slowed down a bit—he is currently pushing for a boycott on all Indian goods produced with child labour. This is a constant pursuit of his, reflected also in the Goodweave organization he founded in 1994, which ensures, through certification, that all goods affixed with the Goodweave label were produced without exploitative child labor.

Like Yousafzai, Satyarthi bears the scars of standing up for human rights. He has been brutally physically attacked by opponents of his activism, yet continues to persist for the cause, with the benefits of his own labor being reaped in India and across the world. Many other comparisons have been drawn between Yousafzai and Satyarthi—indeed, a century ago they may have been neighbors. Now, while their respective countries are neighbors instead, Yousafzai and Satyarthi are a symbolic choice for their Nobel Peace Prize. They have opposing characteristics of young and old, female and male, Muslim and Hindu, yet are unified through the common goal of a free, equal life for all children, everywhere. It is hard to believe that these two will ever be less deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, as both carry their progressive efforts forward into a more just world, one which they are ultimately creating together.


Naomi Stewart

Naomi is currently completing her M.Sc. in Science Communication at Imperial College. Formerly a Project Associate at the United Nations University - Institute for Water, Environment and Health, in the...

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