IN ONE OF the sweltering afternoon in the capital, a bunch of child labour activists rescued 9 year Raghu from a Zari making unit and brought them to a shelter home. His life took a positive shape and he could relive his childhood again.
At the same time in different parts of the world, International Day Against Child Labour was observed with conferences, seminars, lectures, declaration of funds and deliberations.
Both such instances would not have been possible without people like Kailash Satyarthi and hundreds of children who showed courage at every juncture of their lives.
International Day Against Child Labour holds a specific significance not only for right based organizations across the globe but for millions of children who have spent their childhood in child labour and extreme exploitation.
However, UN didn’t just declare this one fine day, it was an indeed a life defining moment.
It was June 6th of 1998 and more than 600 people delegation which was led by children, got inside the hall where ministers and high ranking officials of more than 150 countries had gathered for International Labour Organization’s (ILO) International Labour Conference.
The security staff gazed in wonder as the crowd marched inside with posters and banners with children sloganeering to end child labour.
Leading the march was a 14-year-old boy Khokhan who had lost a leg during his childhood. The sound and spectacle of 2,000 delegates giving a standing ovation to the marchers still deeply resonates to each and every child who was part of this event.
In the history of mankind, not such a public awareness campaign on Child Labour was organized.
This march was a brainchild of Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and lasted for about five months.
One of the main demands was that of international law against worst forms of child labour and various Presidents, Prime Ministers, world leaders and kings and queens of more than 100 countries participated and supported the law.
The Global March Against Child Labor had such a forceful impact that only a year later, on 17 June 1999, the ILO unanimously passed Convention-182 against child labor and child slavery.
The ILO Convention – 182 law prohibits child slavery and bonded child labor and completely bans the use of children as child labour. 187 countries of the world including India have signed this international treaty now.
In July 2020, Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, ratified ILO Convention-182 as the 187th member state. With the ratification of Tonga, Convention 182 has become the most supported convention globally in the history of the ILO.
ILO also accepted the second demand of Mr. Satyarthi which was to dedicated a day for the most exploited children of the world and later declared June 12 to be celebrated as International Day Against Child Labour.
The story of the Global March and its achievements is testimony to the fact that hope and optimism do triumph over madness and cynicism.
Although the situation of Child labour had improved since this International convention 182 was introduced but in the year 2021 the number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide which indicates an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years according to a report by the ILO and UNICEF.
Hundreds and thousands of children were trafficked and pushed to labour in this pandemic.
However, the ideal situation would be a day when we do not have to observe this day and child labour as a concept becomes history.
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