A victory for children

Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yusufzai have won the Nobel Prize for Peace. It is a victory for all the children who are denied their very basic rights, children who have no voice, children who are used and abused, children whose rights are hijacked with impunity. It is truly celebration time for all those, who like us at Project Why believe that every child has the right to a childhood, a right to go to school, to play and laugh and a right to dream. We have strived for the past 3 decades to ensure that the children who walk into the doors of Project Why dare to dream.

The two laureates are crusaders who are fighting to end child labour and trafficking in any form and ensure that every girl goes to school. The reason we need to celebrate is that with the Nobel Prize, these issues have come out of the closet and are now centre stage. We cannot shy away from them even if we want to and that is cause to celebrate. The office of Bachpan Bachao Andolan is close to ours and I have been an admirer of what they stand for. Kailash Satyarthi is someone I hold in high esteem, and yes I am one of the few of have followed his crusade! I guess most of us Indians must have wondered who this Nobel Laureate was and Auntie Google must have been very busy indeed. It is a matter of shame that we Indians are not aware of those who fight for children and even our State who revels in handing out civilian honours to movie and sports stars, rarely does it for the quiet and committed workers who shun publicity. And tough Malala is known to one and all courtesy the media, Kailash Satyarthi remained unknown till the Nobel prize lights were directed to him.

We are nothing in comparison to BBA whose work is stellar, but we too work with children who may have been forced into child labour were we not there. Many of you know how tough it is for us at project why to keep our head above water, come to think of it seven as I write these words, I am facing the daunting challenge of having to make up for the loss in funding we are facing since last month: 100 000 whopping rupees. In times like these, I feel let down by my own people who have never felt the need of reaching out to us and helping our lovely kids. This is when Satyarthi's words "If not now, then when? If not you, then who?" come to mind and one feels the need to scream them out loud and clear.

I have always held that children cannot wait for the right time, the right place, the right decision and its implementation, the right law and its promulgation and so on. By the time the rights whatever happens, millions of kids would have missed the boat. We need to help them NOW and if it is not we who do it, then WHO? I hope you get what I am trying to convey.

But then this elusive US has never really learnt to look with its heart, more so at children who remain invisible. Come on! How many times have you felt the urge to help a beggar child or at least asked yourself why this child is begging? How many times have you chided your friend, acquaintance, neighbour who employs a child as a house servant? How many times have you asked yourself why as child is working when he or she should be in school? I leave you to answer. Did you know that three quarters of domestic workers in India are believed to be between the ages of 12 and 16 and 90% of them are girls. The Indian government’s 2001 census says 12.6 million minors between the age of 5 and 14 are in the workforce.

Time and again a horror story about someone ill-treating a maid comes out and we make the appropriate noises but then we forget the whole matter, just as the press does. Do we need the press to  realise that all is not well with the children of India.

We need to do some serious soul searching. I do hope the Nobel glare shakes our collective conscience from its inertia.

"If not now, then when? If not you, then who?" Kailash Satyarthi Nobel Peace Prize 2004