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August 1, 2013

Saving Children from Forced Labor in India

Despite laws that mandate school up to age 14, as many as 50 million underage children are estimated to be working in India’s growing, but largely unorganized, economy.

Many of these children have been sold to their employers by their families in an attempt to survive dire poverty, and face harsh working conditions.

“We worked from 8:00 a.m. until midnight,” said one child who was recently saved from bondage. “ If you ever did something wrong, they would beat us. We got beaten every day.”

Kailash, Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist, has been working with small independent groups and local governments to save such children from their employers in an effort to break the cycle of poverty in India.

“Almost all the parents are illiterate,” he said. “I always advocate that poverty, child labor and illiteracy are three interrelated cause-and-consequence factors.”

After decades of advocating against child labor in India’s rug industry, Satyarthi founded GoodWeave, an organization that now offers a labeling system that guarantees that no child labor was used in making the rugs. Because economic incentives cause parents to push their children into labor, GoodWeave offers stipends to parents of former child laborers if they can prove that their children are enrolled in school.

GoodWeave estimates that the number of child laborers in the rug industry is now down by about a quarter, but while child labor is still cheap, their work will still be in demand.


“You can buy a child for lesser price than an animal. The buffaloes and cows are much more expensive than buying a child to work full-time and for the whole of his life,” – Kailash Satyarthi, children’s rights activist.

Warm up questions

1. Should children be forced to go to work? Should children be forced to go to school?

2. If your family needed your income to survive would you quit school and go to work?

3. What are some human rights that children should have?

Discussion questions

1. How does Kailash’s program help children who were forced to work? Is this method a good idea?

2. Do you think that child labor is a problem in the United States? Why or why not?

3. How can you help fight child labor in other countries?

For a complete lesson plan on Kailash Satyarthi from Speak Truth To Power, please click the “download worksheet” box at the top of the page or visit their website to learn more about their human rights curriculum.

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