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Generation Forward: The Story of Bal Ashram

In his 2014 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Kailash Satyarthi told a story.

I remember an eight-year-old girl we rescued from forced labour from a stone quarry. And she was sitting in my car after her rescue and asked, “Why didn’t you come earlier?” Her angry question still shakes me.

In 1980, Kailash founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a small Indian NGO whose name means a movement to save childhood. For over thirty years, Kailash, with the support of his wife Sumedha, led a singular and sometimes solitary movement to put an end to the scourge of child labor, human slavery and trafficking and to provide access to education for all children. In 1998, they founded a rehabilitation center near Jaipur, Bal Ashram, to provide rescued children with the compassion, education and vocational training they so desperately need.

In their 36 years of marriage, Kailash and Sumedha have instilled the value of every human life in their own children: their son Bhuwan, who is one of the leading legal scholars fighting for children’s rights in India, and their daughter Asmita, who has worked on many of the campaigns. It’s a family business. As a result of their efforts, over 80,000 children have been rescued from slavery.

The film will follow the work of Bachpan Bachao Andolan and capture the lives of children rescued from slave labor, following the daily work of love and compassion that Bal Ashram’s leader Sumedha imparts to rescued children. Sumedha teaches them to become confident and skilled enough to overcome their past and lead dignified lives. She helps children who have seen the worst find their voice and become agents of change against exploitation and abuse. She is educating the next generation of activists. The center has rehabilitated more than 1600 children so far.

The video would also follow the influence of Sumedha’s work in surrounding communities to implement Child Friendly Villages, a program which aims at the elimination of child labour and children’s enrollment in schools through active community participation.

Interviews with rescued children, with Kailash and Sumedha and members of Child Friendly communities will speak to the work that needs to be done.

The video is intended to motivate, educate and inspire activists, students, NGOs, corporations and individuals who could contribute resources to support this work.

Children are questioning our inaction and watching us. I call upon all of us to put an end to all violence against children.

Kailash Satyarthi

Len Morris

Media Voices for Children, 110 Daggett Avenue, Vineyard Haven, MA, United States