Nobel Laureate and child activist Kailash Satyarthi urged entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley to unite for the cause of children in his keynote address at the TiECON 2016.
Held at the Santa Clara Convention hall in San Jose earlier this month, Satyarthi said, "This is the valley of leadership, entrepreneurship, technology, innovation and disruption. If we join them together, we can give children a chance to be able to enjoy their childhood and get an education. This is the purpose of my visit to the Silicon Valley," he said.
Satyarthi started his movement in 1981 to save children from slavery at a time when this was largely treated as a non-issue in India and the rest of the world. He doesn't underplay the challenges he faced fighting the mindset that allowed poor children to work. "Challenging this mindset was also a kind of 'disruption'," he added.
Silicon Valley and the cause of children
About 168 million children across the world are suffering from some form of slavery and roughly 59 million have absolutely no access to education. In fact, if 3 and a half days' worth of defense expenditure across the world were put to the cause of children, it is possible to educate them all for a year.
"I know there are some people in the world who have changed the image of my country. From a land of snake charmers, the image of India has taken a turn to one of a hotbed for successful startups," says Satyarthi. "Who are these people? The image of India has changed because of entrepreneurs who have been doing great work," he added.
An engineer by qualification, Satyarthi hails from Kanpur and gave up his career very early in his profession to follow his passion of saving children from slavery. "I am here to remind you that you have the capacity to make a change in the lives of these children," he addressed the packed audience of investors and entrepreneurs. "Businesses are not just money-making tools. They are engines that can spur real social change too. Some old businesses are still engaging children in slavery. But we can change that with advanced technology," he added.
Satyarthi's organization has been able to bring down child labor in the carpet industry in South Asia from 1 million to 2,00,000. "World Bank and ILO reports says that if you invest $1 on eradication of child labor now, the return over a period of 20 years will be $7," he says. "Another World Bank and UNSECO report says that if you invest $1 on education now, the return over a period of 20 years will be $15," he added.
Through his foundation, the Nobel laureate is trying to mobilize 100 million youth to uplift 100 million suffering children.