Joining forces to change the world

published 22 July 2019 updated 7 August 2019

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi sparked hope for change among delegates at the EI World Congress with a motivational speech on leadership, change and justice.

An ally of educators well known to delegates present at EI World Congress in Bangkok, Kailash Satyarthi began his address to Congress with a metaphor. “This room is filled with fire and light, because you symbolise sparks and ignition,” he said of the 1400 teachers and educators filling the room.

Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for this work against child labour and has supported EI and the fight for access to quality education for decades.

Recalling the theme of EI’s Congress “Educators and their unions taking the lead”, Satyarthi said that this action was timely and crucial given the current “dark times” with children’s rights, educators’ rights, democracies and the climate put at risk by conflict and greed.

Inequality on the rise

Satyarthi shared striking figures that prove an “unacceptable” increase in inequality: 428 million children below the age of 10 are living in multidimensional poverty; of the 1.3 billion people worldwide living in this condition, over half are under the age of 18. “Children are bearing the brunt of inequality everywhere,” he stated.

He regretted that the global situation does not point to a positive outcome for the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015, especially in what refers to the target of achieving free quality education for all.  One quarter of adolescents is expected to be out of school by 2030, and the world needs 69 million more qualified teachers. A lack of political will and the push towards the privatisation of education were standing in the way of justice and progress, he said.

Taking the lead together

Unions and their fight for more justice and equity were praised by Satyarthi, who highlighted the importance of working together with other social movements in order to “spread compassion” in the world. His own initiative is collecting signatures in support of children through the “100 million campaign”, with EI and other movements as strong allies.

Satyarthi concluded his speech to a standing ovation by delegates who appreciated his call to action: “You cannot wait for a hero to descend. You are that hero. You are that change. You are the leaders.”