Kailash Satyarthi: Child Labor

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Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi, ©2000 Eddie Adams


  • 6-8


  • Children’s Rights and Child Labor

Additional Resources
PDF (with worksheets)


  • Article 4: Freedom from Slavery
  • Article 23: Right to Desirable Work and to Join Trade Unions,
  • Article 24: Right to Rest and Leisure
  • Article 25: Right to Adequate Living Standard
  • Article 26: Right to an Education


  • 120 minutes


  • Why does child labor exist?
  • How can I make a difference in ending child labor?
  • What examples of child labor can I find closest to my community?


After this lesson, students will be able to

  • Understand the causes and conditions of child labor in South Asia (rug-making industry), Ecuador (banana industry) and the United States (migrant farm workers).
  • Explain how Kailash Satyarthi fights against child labor in South Asia.
  • Understand how RugMark and Fair Trade advocate for fair labor practices.
  • Determine the causes of child labor and what can be done to prevent it.
  • Research one area or industry where child labor is prevalent and prepare and action to address it.
  • Create an action plan to fight child labor.


  • Collecting data, facts, and ideas
  • Discovering relationships, concepts, and generalizations
  • Using knowledge from oral, written, and electronic sources.
  • Interpreting information in one’s own words
  • Applying information from one context to another


  • English Language Arts: Standard 1 Language for information and understanding
    • Intermediate Reading PI 1, 3, 4; Writing PI 2, 3, 4
  • English Language Arts: Standard 2 Language for literary responses and expressions
    • Intermediate Reading PI 3, 4, 5; Writing PI 1, 3
  • English Language Arts: Standard 3 Language for critical analysis and evaluation
    • Intermediate Reading PI 1, 3; Writing PI 1, 2
  • English Language Arts: Standard 4 Language for social interaction
    • Intermediate Reading PI 2; Writing PI 2
  • Social Studies: Standard 1 History of the United States and New York
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI 2; KI 2 PI 4; KI 3 PI 3; KI 4 PI 2
  • Social Studies: Standard 2 World History
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI1: KI 2 PI 1; KI 3 PI 1, 2; KI 4 PI 3
  • Social Studies: Standard 3 Geography
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI 1; KI 2 PI 1
  • Social Studies: Standard 4 Economics
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI 2, 4; KI 2 PI 3
  • Social Studies: Standard 5 Civics, Citizenship, and Government
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI 1, 2; KI 2 PI 5; KI 3 PI 3; KI 4 PI 1

NYS P-12 COMMON CORE LEARNING STANDARDS for ELA/Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12

  • RH/SS.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RH/SS.6-8.2) Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • RH/SS.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • RH/SS.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
  • WH/SS.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • WH/SS.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis reflection, and research.



  • Bonded labor
  • Parliamentarians
  • Mass mobilization
  • Prominent
  • Solidarity
  • Boycott
  • Fair Trade
  • Migrant worker
  • South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude
  • Advocacy
  • Emancipate
  • Caste system
  • Untouchables


  • Bonded labor
  • Child slavery
  • Migrant labor
  • Human dignity
  • Courage


  • Computer, projection equipment for online videos, DVD player for videos.

Student Activities


  • Show a banana to students.
    • Ask them, “What do you see?
    • Instruct students to describe what they see in their journals.
  • Ask students to share their responses with a partner.
  • Ask one or two students to share. Note if the students described what they saw on the banana, but did not describe where the banana came from or who is behind the banana industry, ask the students “How did this banana get to the grocery store?” Allow about five minutes for students to respond.


Have the students sit in a circle.

  • Hand students the poem, “Questions from a Worker Who Reads.” (link here)
  • Ask students to read it silently.
  • Then read it aloud to them.
  • Ask the following questions:
    • What literary device does the poet use over and over? (Allusion). Do you recognize any of the allusions?
    • Why does the poet use this device in particular? (He wants the reader to think about important historical events and figures who were made possible by an army of nameless, mostly exploited workers.)
    • What is this poem about? What is the author’s purpose/point?
    • Is there anything you don’t understand?
    • What does the poet mean by the question, “Who paid the piper?” What does this mean for us?
  • For Grade 6 students:


This article would also be useful in 7th or 8th grade for second language learners and students with disabilities.

For students in Grades 7 and 8, or gifted and talented students in Grade 6:

  • Hand to students the Human Rights Watch Article
  • Instruct students to read the article with a partner.
  • Instruct students to answer the questions, finding text support for the answers by underlining the info/answer in the article and writing the question’s # next to it.
  • Have students complete the interdisciplinary worksheet “Human Rights Watch Report.”


  • Show the students the following clips with Kailash Satyarthi
  • Instruct students to read the Speak Truth to Power interview with Kailash Satyarthi: http://blogs.nysut.org/sttp/defenders/kailash-satyarthi/
  • Instruct students to answer the questions found on the worksheet “Meet the Defenders: Kailash Satyarthi.
  • After reading the interview and answering the questions, engage the students in a classroom discussion using these discussion questions:
    • Are children who work in carpet factories in South Asia slaves? Why or why not?
    • Why are these children sold into slavery?
    • Why do you think factories like this still exist in India even though child labor is illegal there?
    • How does the Rugmark foundation help fight against child labor?
    • What can we do as Americans to defend child laborers in South Asia?


Show students the following videos on child labor in the United States agricultural industry.

After viewing, engage students in a class discussion using the following questions:

  • Why does child labor occur in the United States?
  • What can we do to prevent this?
  • Who is in charge?
  • Why are these laws so unfair?
  • What can be done about them?


Ask the students to respond to the following quote and ask them to think of how it applies to some of the stories or articles they have read throughout these lessons.

“Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

After discussing the responses to the quote, do one or more of the following activities:


Students could play the Banana Split Fair Trade game: www.cafod.org.uk/content/download/5884/50213/version/2/file/bananasplit.pdf


  • How does Fair Trade help fight against the problem of child labor? How does it help workers and the environment? (certification means no child labor was used in production, parents are paid a living wage so children do not need to work, profits are invested in the community for education, health care, etc.
  • What are some products you can find in your grocery store that are Fair Trade? (coffee, chocolate, sometimes bananas)
  • Fair Trade organic bananas cost about 99 cents a pound, vs. about 69 cents for regular bananas. Would you be willing to pay the extra cost? Why or why not?
  • How can we get our grocery stores to get more Fair Trade products? (ask manager, etc).

Become a Defender

Instruct students to choose one of the following to become a defender of human rights.

  • Write a letter to your US Senator or Representative to ask them to sponsor HR 5117, Education for All Act of 2010. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.5117
  • Write a detailed letter of opinion or inquiry to someone connected with these issues, for example, the Labor Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, the CEOs of supermarkets, Dole, Chiquita, or other corporations, or to a carpet retailer. In this letter, you can both make a strong point and back it up with evidence from class and your own research, or you can raise important questions. Remember to cite at least two sources in your letter. You must use proper business letter format and include the address of the person you are writing to.
  • Speak to the manager of your local grocery store or coffee shop and ask him or her to sell Fair Trade products. Explain why this is important.
  • Write a poem to share about child labor, and send it to your local newspaper, or state representative, or member of Congress. You may also be able to publish your poem on the web. Make sure you include information from at least two sources. Your poem should be at least 20 lines.
  • Create a poster which teaches the issue to other students. You must use at least 2 sources, Write the info IN YOUR OWN WORDS (no plagiarizing) LARGE enough to be read from a distance, and have graphics to illustrate your points. Your poster will be prominently displayed in the school.
  • Write a story to share with the class as an illustrated children’s book. You may use PowerPoint to do this, but it will be printed out in book format. You may work on this with a partner.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation to teach others about what you have learned. E-mail a copy to a government official or executive in the carpet or banana industry who has the power to make a change.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the problem of child labor and what readers can do about it. You may want to encourage the readers to support the Education for All Act.
  • Produce a song or video. (You would also need to accompany this with a paragraph explaining and defending your point of view.) You can write new lyrics to an existing song. You will have to sing your song or show your video to the class. You may work on this with a partner.


  • Visit www.freethechildren.com/we and create an action plan to raise funds to Adopt a Village Campaign or the Brick by Brick campaign to build a school in a developing country.
  • Read “The Circuit” by Francisco Jimenez, a short story told through the voice of a migrant worker child, written by a former migrant worker.
  • Visit The Fair Food Project to see the current state of farm workers in this country and what is being done to make their lives better. http://www.fairfoodproject.org/main/
  • Visit AFT’s site on child labor in the United States for an excellent overview of the history, state, and past and current legislation regarding child labor on America’s farms. http://www.ourownbackyard.org/
  • Show children video of how some American middle school students were moved to action to become Human Rights Defenders by Iqbal’s story.
  • Local Heroes: Students of Broad Meadows Middle School. Watch segment (chapter 4 of AFT’s DVD-Child Labor Resources) about the visit of Iqbal Masih to a school in Quincy, MA, and how the students were moved to action. Another great student-made video about this is Freedom Hero: Iqbal Masih http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=t0D6K18wq8A
  • See suggestions of current legislation and actions students can do on AFT website: http://www.ourownbackyard.org/what.shtml

AFT: In Our Own Backyard

Part III: What Can Be Done?

This section is intended to provide alternatives that address the problem of American child farm workers. These alternatives include amending existing laws, improving enforcement of those laws, and expanding services for child farm workers. The options presented, however, are by no means comprehensive. As you review them, consider which are most feasible and most desirable, then try to develop your own strategies.

The final step in a public policy project is one you will need to take on your own- deciding exactly what policy should be recommended. As you review the alternatives in this section and develop your own ideas, try to make a list of the objectives, costs (or disadvantages), benefits (or advantages), and practicality of each. When your list is complete, review it in order to help you make your decision of which specific policy to recommend. In making your recommendation, keep in mind the need not only to defend your choice, but also to say why it is more important to pursue than the other options being considered.

  • Video Introduction
  • Motivation, Education and Training: An excerpt from the video “Stolen Childhoods” that highlights one program for serving child farm workers
  • What Kids Can Do: A brief list of actions students can take to address child labor presented in the film “Lost Futures”
  • How Should the Problem Be Addressed in U.S. Laws?:
  • Recommendations: Additional limitations on child labor proposed in a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report:
  • Child Labor Coalition Recommendations How one nongovernmental organization suggests U.S. law should change
  • H.R. 2870: Youth Worker Protection Act: Text of a bill considered by Congress to reform U.S. child labor laws
  • H.R. 3564: Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act): Text of a bill recently introduced to the House of Representatives that would change child labor laws
  • Summary of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act): Summary and explanation of how the CARE Act could change U.S. law
  • What Services Should Be Offered To Support Child Farm Workers?
  • Motivation, Education and Training: Description of an organization that provides education and job training to migrant workers in four states
  • Migrant Education Grants: Explanation of federal grants that encourage states to develop programs to help children of migrant workers and examples of resulting state programs
  • Conexiones community outreach program: Description of a program designed to teach technology and communications skills to children of migrant workers
  • What Can Citizens Do Directly?
  • Ending Child Labor: Different strategies for ending child labor, such as unionism, universal education and universal minimum standards
  • Student Farmworker Alliance: Student organization that works to improve conditions for farm workers
  • Consumers Movement: How consumers have united to bring about change in working conditions over time


The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is sponsoring an annual contest honoring a student who submits the best advocacy activity based upon the lesson studied. A goal of the lesson is to instill into each student that one voice, one person can make monumental changes in the lives of many. Tell us how you “Became a Defender”!


  • A one-page summary of the advocacy activity
  • Digitized copies of materials that can be sent electronically
  • Photos of the activity (please include parental consent form)
  • A one-page summary of how the activity made a change in the lives of one person or many


  • A week long “virtual” internship at RFK Center
  • An opportunity to meet the defender through a SKYPE visit,
  • A visit from Kerry Kennedy or a defender to your school
  • A poster of a Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Defender
  • A donation of a signed copy of Speak Truth to Power for the school library

The application and instructions for entry can be downloaded here (link for materials)

The deadline for all applications is the third week in November.

The winning student and teacher will be notified by the last week of January.

Additional Resources

Video: Stolen Childhoods (2005) Galen Films.
Documentary on global child labor, segments on the rug workers and Kailash Satyarthi. There are also many excellent clips available online if you cannot purchase the film. The Nightline segment is excellent.

Stolen Childhoods Teacher Resource Guide
There is also an online Teacher Resource Guide with excellent resources for further research.

Stolen Childhoods Trailer
Model student poem

Brick Stacking

DVD and teacher resources are available from the American Federation of Teachers at: http://www.aftstore.org/aft/productenlarged.asp?peid=283&pid=900376

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