Satyarthi

File photo of Nobel laureate and Bachpan Bachao Andolan founder Kailash Satyarthi speaking on Sept. 18, 2016 in New York City. (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity)

WASHINGTON — The United States should take the leadership in elimination of child labor globally, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi appealed to American lawmakers and activists, asserting the world cannot be made safe and secure until security and education are provided to each child.

"A lot of work has been done (in elimination of child labor) by the ILO and other UN agencies, but much more is needed. And today, I appeal once again, for the leadership of this country (America). Not only to put an end to child labor in your country, but also to show your leadership as you have shown in the past, and you have proven in the past,” Satyarthi said on Capitol Hill.

Scores of Congressional aides and child rights activists gathered in the hearing room of the House Foreign Affairs Committee June 16 to listen to the passionate appeal of the Indian Nobel laureate.

"Every refugee child is your child, America. You can lead by example to provide compassion, hope and inspiration to rest of the world," Satyarthi, 63, said.

"It's a great country. We have to make it greater. And that is possible only when you embrace all your children, and that does not mean your children are just American children. A child who is enslaved in India, or in Africa, or in any part of Latin America, is your child. A child who is about to be sold to a brothel, a refugee child in Turkey, a Syrian child who has to lose his parents and his family and his country, because of no reason, he said.

Though the international community is observing the World Day Against Child Labor, it is still a challenge, said Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

"We cannot build the infrastructure of prosperity and happiness on the bricks and mortar, sweat and blood of children who are still enslaved. We cannot build a safe and secure world without answering the security and safety, protection and education for every child,” he said.

He said the most powerful safeguard to protect the world from the growing menace of terrorism and insurgencies and extremism, fundamentalism in the name of religion, is "good quality education and secular education.”

"That is needed. And child labor is the biggest impediment in education," he asserted.

Satyarthi recollected his first visit to the U.S. Congress over two decades ago.

"And since then, I addressed many of the congressmen hearings, the staff briefings, and so many other activities on the Capitol Hill. Things have changed since then,” he said.

"It was the time when there was almost complete ignorance about the problem of child labor and the modern child slavery. It was the time when all the almost 260 million children were working, according to some studies, across the world. It was the time when 130 million children had attended schools in their primary classes. But things have changed. And the U.S. has played a significant role in it. It was not possible without you,” Satyarthi told the packed room.

America, he said, is the "beacon of hope.”

"You are the beacon of the possible. You have emerged out of crisis. America — the very society was founded in the situation of crisis, and you have been able to prove that you have all the skills and all the DNA to lead the world, with some ideals, The ideals of liberty, freedom, human rights. The ideals of justice," he said.

"They were not just for yourself. You have led because your realm is the world — inside America and outside America. The respect for diversity is the hallmark of the democracy of this country," he added.

Satyarthi also met Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Navtej Sarna. 

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