Dawn Engle, co-founder and executive director of PeaceJam Foundation, knew exactly who she wanted as speaker for this year’s Nobel Laureate Public Talk when she visited Columbia for the Nobel Peace Prize summit.
“He’s exactly everything we’re about. He loves young people, he believes in children, he cares about youth right from his heart.”
PeaceJam SouthEast, a program that inspires students grades k-12 to be socially active, celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend by recognizing Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist Kailash Satyarthi.
Satyarthi, born in India in 1954, has been an advocate for human rights —specifically children’s rights— fighting for them as early as 1980. He focuses on the plights of child labour and human trafficking, two major problems globally. He has taken action by founding organizations such as Save the Children Movement and led the Global March Against Child Labour in 1998.
So far Satyarthi has been to 144 countries and protected on behalf of 84,000 children across the world.
Satyarthi started his hour-long talk Friday at FSU’s Turnbull Center by making the topic of children’s human rights relevant to the United States, commemorating all the surviving students of the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting fighting for gun reform.
“More than a million young people of this country took up the streets to challenge your great president. He has to listen to their voice. The world has to listen to their voice that children are asking for safety,” he said.
Being a foreigner, he says he recognizes the obscene gun culture in the U.S.
In other countries, human rights are obstructed much more overtly, sometimes without consequence. The entire night Satyarthi revealed alarming facts, such as 152 million kids today work full-time jobs; one out of seven people globally can’t read; people are sold for similar prices as animals; and child soldiers are taught to kill their families. In 2015 USA Today reported that there are more slaves today than at any other time in history.
“How can you say this is not our problem?” he said
He believes these crimes against humanity such as human trafficking or child soldiers stem from child labor, illiteracy and poverty. He refers to them as “a vicious circle.”
Knowing what causes a problem helps in dismantling it, he said.
Satyarthi is hopeful for the future. He has seen the progression of his cause firsthand as laws have been passed and the number of child laborers has decreased from 260 million to 150 million since 1999. He also encourages the use of social media to spread awareness. It is the fastest way to gain awareness of a topic. For example the death of Michael Brown.
He also claimed fair wages would help solve these inequalities, since poverty is proven to correlate with crime. Satyarthi is on the winning side of the fight against child labor, and with help he said he believes he can knock out this global disaster.