Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi has urged Bangladesh's youths to stand beside the disadvantaged children and help them get education and protect them from exploitation.
“You are very lucky. You have parents and teachers, and you can go to school… but there are tens of millions who are deprived of healthcare, education, and protection,” he said.
“Let's pledge to eliminate child labour and ensure education for all,” Satyarthi said at the launch of a global campaign, “100 million for 100 million”, at the capital's St Joseph Higher Secondary School yesterday.
The Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) organised the programme that brought together several hundred school students, and ministers, educationists, and development activists.
They chanted together, “We will build our future.”
Today there are more than 100 million child labourers in the world, of which 5 million are in slavery. More than 100 million children are out of school and a staggering 2 million have been killed in conflict in the last 10 years, according to the campaign documents.
“Children have not created wars, boundaries or walls. The adults have done these,” Satyarthi said, mentioning the state of the refugee children and their deprivation.
“Despite all the global progress we have seen, these are the world's forgotten youths. It is the 21st century, and there is no excuse to let this carry on,” said the Indian child rights and education advocate, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai.
Satyarthi said the future would be better for all if every child grew up protected from violence, and continue learning in school, not working to survive.
Stating that Bangladesh was his second home and that the youths of this country had all the potentials to lead the world, he said it was one world that belonged to all the people who had equal rights.
He said the world leadership would be at the hands of youths, and they could change the system where there were discriminations, wars, deprivation, and injustice.
The strength of former child labourers in India and the impact of other young people who are taking action around the world have inspired this global campaign, he said.
“We aim to support the largest youth mobilisation in history, standing together to change the future so that every child has a chance at life,” Satyarthi said.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque said the number of Bangladesh's child labourers came down to 17 lakh in 2013 from 34 lakh in 2001.
“We will eliminate hazardous child labour by 2021,” he said. Besides, the government is formulating a policy to protect the domestic child workers, he said.
Primary and Mass Education Minister Mustafizur Rahman said primary school enrolment rate in Bangladesh was 100 percent, and the challenge now was quality education.
Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud lauded Kailash Satyarthi's initiative and pledged to work for the disadvantaged children.
According to CAMPE, there are 60 lakh underprivileged children in Bangladesh.
“We, in Bangladesh, joined the campaign with the goal of bringing the disadvantaged children back to normal life, provide education, engage them in development, and ensure safe life,” said CAMPE Executive Director Rasheda K Choudhury.
The privileged children will raise their voices and contribute to improve the lives of the underprivileged children, she said.
Cardinal Patrick D Rozario, economists Hossain Zillur Rahman and Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director Shaheen Anam, writer and columnist Anisul Hoque, freedom fighter and sculptor Ferdousi Priyobhashini, Green Delta Insurance Company Ltd CEO Farzana Chowdhury -- all pledged to work for the underprivileged children.