Bachpan Bachao Andolan was founded in 1980 by Kailash Satyarthi, who has since become a worldwide acclaimed anti-child labour activist. When Satyarthi started out with a small group of like-minded individuals, the issue of child labour was unacknowledged by Indian legislation, in public discourse and by the media. Back then, fighting child labour was not only a seemingly insurmountable task, it was also an extremely dangerous endeavor. Though, while eradicating child labour remains one of the biggest challenges for India, BBA has been successful in changing the fate of over 82 000 children rescued from exploitation, in achieving important anti-child labour and anti-trafficking laws, and in raising awareness among the public. Some of our successes deserve to be further highlighted.
Raid and rescue operations to free child workers from unacceptable conditions have always been at the heart of our work. Early efforts have mainly been directed at children exploited in brick kilns, stone quarries and the carpet industry, though, today, BBA rescue operations take place in many more industries. An important milestone in our history marks the opening of Mukti Ahsram in 1990, which has been the first transit rehabilitation center for bonded child labourers. The short stay home, situated in the outskirts of Delhi, provides children rescued in the Delhi-area with a first safe haven from which to restore trust in their environment and reconnect with their parents. In 1997, BBA opened Bal Ashram in Rajasthan, which provides a long-term solution to former child labourers.
In 1993, BBA initiated the first campaign in form of a march against child labour. The 2000 km Bihar-Delhi march raised awareness on the issue of child labour in the carpet industry. Other marches followed, with the historic Global March Against Child Labour in 1998 being the most impressive up to date. The 80 000 km long physical march crossed 103 countries and led to a high level of participation from the masses as well as the support of world leaders.
The development of the model of Bal Mitra Gram (Child Friendly Villages) in 2001 is also an example for BBA’s innovative approach. The implementation of the model into villages leads to the prevention and elimination of child labour in the long-run, among others through mechanisms such as the creation of an elected children’s assembly and its linkage with the village council, the enrollment of all children in school and community actions for change. Another on-going campaign, Mukti Caravan, has been launched in 2006. It is a “campaign on wheels” by former child labourers, trained in folks art and street theater. Since BBA has send off the first Mukti Caravan, the activists have visited many villages, where they have created a better understanding of the need for education and the evil of trafficking and child labour.
The continues efforts of BBA have triggered the adoption of anti-child labour and anti-trafficking laws. Important milestones have been the ratification of the 1986 Enactment of Child Labour Act by the Parliament of India and the 1999 ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. The latter was adopted following the Global March Against Child Labour, which has culminated in Geneva and played a large role through its members and partners in the adoption of the convention.