It is barely daybreak, yet 16 year-old Jitender is wide awake. He runs from one broken down machine to the next, carefully positioning each stride so that his wounds resulting from last night’s beating don’t get ruptured further by broken glass or other debris littering the floor. His only companions are the sounds of agony pervading his enclosure: the moans and groans of the machinery, the growling of his stomach, and the cries of the cows that he had nurtured for days prior to their merciless slaughter. As sweat pours down his brow and spills onto the floor, Jitender knows he cannot stop running, as his employer will find out and certainly whip him until Jitender’s skin turns red. No, he must not stop, not even to cry out for his beloved parents to come and rescue him from the lies that the middleman cooked about this being a ‘better future’ for him. Alas, he must keep going until someone calls for him to go and drink the only beverage given to him each day, a strangely addicting euphoria incurring tea.

 

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Kailash Satyarthi gives talk recently at MIT. (Photo by Trisha Ballakur).

Nearly 168 million children face situations similar to Jitender’s every day of their lives. Without a voice to cry out with, these children feel as though no one will ever know of what is happening to them and thus never be rescued from the torture. However, little to their knowledge, there is a person who looks out for them each day. Nobel Prize Winner, Kailash Satyarthi, has freed 800,000 children from the clutches of the labor trade since 1980. A former electrical engineer, Satyarthi has given up his job in order to rescue and restore the childhoods of millions of kids. As Satyarthi commented in his Twitter feed to followers all over the world, “Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Slavery still exists in all its cruel forms.”

Recently, Satyarthi’s work led him to give a talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, he shared the details of his mission to abolish childhood labor and slavery. Aside from freeing the laborers, his main goal is to provide them a stable education afterwards so that they may blossom into valuable members of society. Thereafter, he explained to the audience how his mission is not a matter of welfare, nor is it a charitable cause; instead, the childhood slavery epidemic is a human rights issue that affects us all. “Why are children born to work at the cost of their freedom?” Satyarthi asked the audience. He goes on to point out that it isn’t government nor any constitution that grants a human his or her freedom; a human receives freedom with his or her birth, and this freedom can only be stolen or returned upon its initial possession. Explaining this thus far, Satyarthi reinforces how a kid’s childhood can be granted back to him if fellow humans take up the initiative and strength to do so.

To end his talk, Satyarthi highlighted the details of the next addition to his mission. Called the ‘Hundred Million for A Hundred Million’ campaign, Satyarthi hopes to inspire the  current generation of children and let them contribute their energy and enthusiasm to help out other child laborers who have lost their chance to be kids. Satyarthi emphasizes that this campaign applies to children all over the world. Although it may be hard to appreciate at times, Andover High School students are granted the human right to expand their horizons in academia, unlike the 168 million child slaves. Satyarthi concludes his talk by making one last request to the audience: “Make it so that this is the generation that makes slavery history.”            

By Trisha Ballakur