He is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a nonprofit organization in India that works to protect children, and he is a member of The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.
By Kailash Satyarthi
In early August, the 187th — and final — member of the U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) ratified Convention No. 182, a treaty to protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, prostitution and trafficking. It’s a powerfully important achievement more than two decades in the making. Never before in history has there been, from every corner of the planet, an absolute consensus to eradicate the exploitation that deprives children of their most basic of freedoms and robs them of the personal peace, promise and prosperity every human being deserves.
We reached this remarkable milestone as the covid-19 pandemic was continuing to envelop and frighten the world, leaving millions sick and dead, economies in ruins, and driving more than 90 percent of the world’s children — or about 1.6 billion — out of school.
When the poorest and most marginalized children are out of school, we already know they can be forced into child labor and exploitation, and they endure the most violent suffering. Also, the longer they stay out of school, the less likely they will ever go back. At the same time, child laborers are prone to drop out of school, if they ever go at all. With hundreds of millions of children now locked out of education, these multiple threats have become widespread.
Many children are now more exposed to sexual abuse at home, which will likely drive a spike in child marriage and teenage pregnancies that too often mean the end of formal schooling for girls. They become fodder for online child sexual commercial exploitation, which is expanding to meet growing demand from locked-down abusers. Moreover, the collapse of whole economies and family livelihoods is predictably pushing more children into work and the worst forms of child labor, including the risk of being trafficked.