Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, distinguished members
of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, dear brother Tom Harkin, brothers and
sisters, a and my dear daughter Malala.
My journey from
the great land of Lord Buddha, Guru Nanak and Mahatma Gandhi; India to
Norway is a connect between the two centres of global peace and
brotherhood, ancient and modern.
Friends, the Nobel Committee generously invited me to deliver a "lecture." Respectfully, I am unable to do that.
represent here the sound of silence. The cry of innocence. And, the
face of invisibility. I have come here to share the voices and dreams of
our children, our children, because they are all our children.
I have looked into their frightened and exhausted eyes. And I have heard their urgent questions:
years ago, in the foothills of the Himalayas, I met a small, skinny
boy. He asked me: "Is the world so poor that it cannot give me a toy and
a book, instead of forcing me to take a tool or gun?"
I met with a
Sudanese child-soldier who was kidnapped by an extremist militia. As
his first training, he was forced to kill his friends and family. He
asked me: "What is my fault?"
Twelve years ago, a child-mother
from the streets of Colombia - trafficked, raped, enslaved - asked me
this: "I have never had a dream. Can my child have one?"
There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children.
The single aim of my life is that every child is:
free to be a child,
free to grow and develop,
free to eat, sleep, see daylight,
free to laugh and cry,
free to play,
free to learn, free to go to school, and above all,
free to dream.
the great religions tell us to care for children. Jesus said: "Let the
children come to me; do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs
to them." The Holy Quran says: "Kill not your children because of
I refuse to accept that all the temples and mosques and churches and prayer houses have no place for the dreams of our children.
refuse to accept that the world is so poor, when just one week of
global spending on armies is enough to bring all of our children into
I refuse to accept that all the laws and constitutions, and the judges and the police are not able to protect our children.
I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be stronger than the quest for freedom.
I REFUSE TO ACCEPT.
am privileged to work with many courageous souls who also refuse to
accept. We have never given up against any threat and attack, and we
will never. Undoubtedly, progress has been made in the last couple of
decades. The number of out of school children has been halved. Child
mortality and malnutrition has been reduced, and millions of child
deaths have been prevented. The number of child labourers in the world
has been reduced by a third. Make no mistake, great challenges still
Friends, the biggest crisis knocking on the doors of humanity today is intolerance.
have utterly failed in imparting an education to our children. An
education that gives the meaning and objective of life and a secure
future. An education that builds a sense of global citizenship among the
young people. I am afraid that the day is not far when the cumulative
result of this failure will culminate in unprecedented violence that
will be suicidal for humankind.
Yet, young people like Malala, are
rising up everywhere and choosing peace over violence, tolerance over
extremism, and courage over fear.
Solutions are not found only in
the deliberations in conferences and prescriptions from a distance. They
lie in small groups and local organisations and individuals, who
confront the problem every day, even if they remain unrecognised and
unknown to the world
Eighteen years ago, millions of my brothers
and sisters in 103 countries marched across 80,000 kilometres. And, a
new international law against child labour was born. We have done this.
may ask: what can one person do? Let me tell you a story I remember
from my childhood: A terrible fire had broken out in the forest. All the
animals were running away, including the lion, king of the forest.
Suddenly, the lion saw a tiny bird rushing towards the fire. He asked
the bird, "what are you doing?" To the lion's surprise, the bird replied
"I am on my way to extinguish the fire." He laughed and said, "how can
you kill the fire with just one drop of water, in your beak?" The bird
was adamant, and said, "But I am doing my bit."
You and I live in
the age of rapid globalisation. We are connected through high-speed
Internet. We exchange goods and services in a single global market. Each
day, thousands of flights connect us to every corner of the globe.
there is one serious disconnect. It is the lack of compassion. Let us
inculcate and transform the individuals' compassion into a global
movement. Let us globalise compassion. Not passive compassion, but
transformative compassion that leads to justice, equality, and freedom.
Gandhi said, "If we are to teach real peace in this world... we shall
have to begin with the children." I humbly add, let us unite the world
through the compassion for our children.
Whose children are they
who stitch footballs, yet have never played with one? They are our
children. Whose children are they who mine stones and minerals? They are
our children. Whose children are they who harvest cocoa, yet do not
know the taste of a chocolate? They are all our children.
was born into intergenerational debt and bonded labour in India. Sitting
in my car immediately after her rescue the eight-year-old girl asked:
Why did you not come earlier? Her angry question still shakes me - and
has the power to shake the world. Her question is for all of us. Why did
we not come earlier? What are we waiting for? How many more Devlis will
we allow to go without rescue? How many more girls will be abducted,
confined and abused? Children, like Devli across the world are
questioning our inaction and watching our actions.
collective actions with a sense of urgency. Every single minute matters,
every single child matters, every single childhood matters.
challenge the passivity and pessimism surrounding our children. I
challenge this culture of silence, this culture of neutrality.
therefore, call upon all the governments, intergovernmental agencies,
businesses, faith leaders, the civil society, and each one of us, to put
an end to all forms of violence against children. Slavery, trafficking,
child marriages, child labour, sexual abuse, and illiteracy have no
place in any civilised society.
Friends, we can do this.
Governments must make child friendly policies, and invest in education and young people.
Businesses must be more responsible and open to innovative partnerships.
Intergovernmental agencies must work together to accelerate action.
Global civil society must rise above business-as-usual and scattered agendas.
Faith leaders and institutions, and all of us must stand with our children.
We must be bold, we must be ambitious, and we must have the will. We must keep our promises.
fifty years ago, on the first day of my school I met a cobbler boy my
age sitting at the school gate, polishing shoes. I asked my teachers
these questions: "Why is he working outside? Why is he not coming to
school with me?" My teachers had no answer. One day, I gathered the
courage to ask the boys' father. He said: "Sir, I have never thought
about it. We are just born to work." This made me angry. It still makes
me angry. I challenged it then, and I am challenging it today.
child, I had a vision of tomorrow. That cobbler boy was studying with
me in my classroom. Now, that tomorrow has become TODAY. I am TODAY, and
you are TODAY. TODAY it is time for every child to have the right to
life, the right to freedom, the right to health, the right to education,
the right to safety, the right to dignity, the right to equality, and
the right to peace.
TODAY, beyond the darkness, I see the smiling
faces of our children in the blinking stars. TODAY, in every wave of
every ocean, I see our children playing and dancing. TODAY, in every
plant, tree, and mountain, I see that little cobbler boy sitting with me
in the classroom.
I want you to see and feel this TODAY inside
you. My dear sisters and brothers, may I ask you to close your eyes and
put your hand close to your heart for a moment? Can you feel the child
inside you? Now, listen to this child. I am sure you can!
see thousands of Mahatma Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, andNelson
Mandelas marching forward and calling on us. The boys and girls have
joined. I have joined in. We ask you to join too.
Let us democratise knowledge.
Let us universalise justice.
Together, let us globalise compassion, for our children!
I call upon you in this room, and all across the world.
call for a march from exploitation to education, from poverty to shared
prosperity, a march from slavery to liberty, and a march from violence