Children: Of more than 168 million child labourers across the world, half of them are in the Asia Pacific region where informal economies, high poverty, and lack of strong regulations to protect children exist.

Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satayarthi in his talk to more than a hundred journalists during an international media conference in New Delhi, India, said that the Asia Pacific region is the biggest hub of child labour where children are put into different working environment.

He said that globally there was no strong effort and no strong laws to free children from slavery, thus the best and most appropriate ways to free them was through education.

This is what the journalist turned activist, Kalish Satyarthi, who received the Noble Peace Prize in 2014 for advocating child rights, does. He has so far freed more than 85,000 children from 144 countries in the region from slavery, brothels, and human trafficking, among others.

While child labour in Bhutan is usually seen in the form of baby sitters, maids and domestic helpers, in other part of the region, children are exploited for sex, slavery, bonded labour, as child soldiers and for the industrial work force.

Child labour according to the International Labour Organisation is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development.

It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, or work whose schedule interferes with their ability to attend regular school.

To initiate an end to violence against children in the SAARC region, member states met in Thimphu in July and decided to build alliances among themselves in combating all sorts of child labour by 2025.

Kalish Satyarthi said that if global efforts are made in educating children most of the issues related to child labour could be addressed. He added that there are more than 120 million school dropouts in the Asia Pacific region alone.

Kalish Satyarthi calls for global efforts to invest on children’s education, which would require USD 22 billion for primary education. This budget according to him is four and half day’s global expenses on military and warfare. “It is a question of priority,” said Kalish Satyarthi.

A lot of money is being made in the region through misuse of children by making them work as sex workers, slaves and maids, he said.

Kalish Satyarthi said that everyday illicit money through misuse of children is increasing. Over the years, illicit money in the region has increased from USD 50 million to 150 million.

He said that budget should be allocated in innovative ways, and the private and corporate world should also take moral responsibility to protect the children.

This should be demanded by the people and media should give space to their voices, said Kalish Satyarthi.

He asked journalists to help in bringing out issues into the lime light so that every issue related to children protection and care gets a space in the public domain.

The international conference is being organised by the East-West Centre, an independent non-profit organisation in collaboration with the US embassy in India.

The centre enables promoting better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia and the Pacific through cooperative study, research and dialogue.

Tenzin Namgyel | New Delhi