Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi might not share the name recognition of Malala Yousafzai, or the same country of origin, but when it comes to fighting for children’s rights to an education, they’re on the same team.
And for the past month, Satyarthi, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala in 2014, has been a man on a mission. He’s walked over 12,000 kilometers for a very important cause: ending child trafficking and sexual violence against children in India.
Satyarthi’s walk across India took 35 days and spanned 22 Indian states, according to the Indian Express. Along the way, the activist spoke with politicians, judges, students, religious leaders, and community members, Reuters reports.
At the end of the march, he called on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address violence against children by forming a national tribunal on child abuse and passing a law to combat human trafficking.
“Children cannot wait any longer,” Satyarthi wrote on Twitter. “Legal deterrence, appropriate allocation of resources, and strong preventive and rehabilitative measures are required with a sense of urgency to end violence against children.”
His message seems to have successfully made its way to the country’s political elite.
On Tuesday, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind urged Prime Minister Modi to address child trafficking and sexual violence in order to make good on his “New India” vision, which includes housing, electricity, healthcare, and education for all.
“[I]f the issue of child sexual abuse — and the other sensitive crimes against children — are not addressed, I think that we miss making this concept possible when we celebrate 75 years of freedom,” Kovind said of the “New India” plan.
India finds itself at a critical juncture in the fight to end child exploitation. According to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, sexual violence affected 15,000 children in India in 2015, 67% more than the year before, and in 2016 9,000 children were the victims of trafficking, 27% more than the year before.
By and large, the victims of human trafficking in India tend to be poorer and located in rural parts of the country, such as the state of West Bengal, Reuters reports.
Kailash runs a nonprofit, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, that works to free children from modern slavery. So far it has liberated more than 80,000 children, according to WebIndia123.
But Kailash, notably, wasn’t alone in his march across the country. The activist wrote in an op-ed in the Hindustan Times that he was joined along the way by 300 core marchers, many of whom had been the victims of child trafficking or sexual violence.
“Extraordinary feats are achieved when ordinary people decide to speak out and act decisively,” he wrote. “I can now dream of an India where children will be safe from predators and of an India where our loud collective voices sweep away the shackles of silence.”
Global Citizen campaigns on the Level the Law movement, which urges governments around the world to combat sexual violence by amending laws that allow violence and abuse. You can take action here.