CLAIRE PHILLIPS

Contemporary Portrait Artist


 

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Kailash Satyarthi

137 x 152 cm
oil on canvas

The founder of BBA, Kailash Satyarthi, is an extraordinary man whose social conscience has directed his whole life.

He was an unusually perceptive child and, at the age of 5 on his first day at school, he was confused to see a boy his age sitting outside the school with his father, mending and polishing shoes. When Kailash asked his headmaster why the boy was not in school the reply was, ‘because he’s poor’. He also asked the boy’s father, who replied ‘Big sir, I have never thought of it. We are born to work.’ Even at this young age Kailash knew he was born to be a ‘big person’ – an engineer, doctor or professor. Now he realised that even the poor did not question their inevitable poverty. In India the surname you are born with can dictate your life’s path because of the caste system.

This boy stayed in Kailash’s mind throughout his childhood. Years later when he was studying electrical engineering at university the inequality still haunted him and he decided to give up his family name which indicated his caste and took the name ‘Satyarthi’ which means ‘seeker of truth’. Now no-one can judge his status by his name.

At the age of 26 he gave up a promising career as an engineer and dedicated his life to eliminating child labour and exploitation and promoting education as the most effective way out of poverty. Regularly risking his own life and enduring many beatings he has rescued children, and sometimes whole families, from armed and angry factory owners. 

His actions have led to the rescue of 80,000 children from child labour, international pressure on the government and changes in the law governing child employment.

He maintains that with 50 million child labourers in India and 60 million unemployed adults, the ending of child labour could transform the fortunes of the country.