NEW DELHI : Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi told AFP he believes child labour can be eradicated in his lifetime, calling for everyone in the world to “take a stand” against the practice.

Satyarthi, 60, was on Friday jointly awarded the prize with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage education campaigner shot by the Taliban in 2012.

The Indian activist was recognised for decades of doggedly championing children’s rights in his home country and worldwide and argues that poverty should not be an excuse for child labour.

The Nobel prize has given the anti-child labour movement new “global visibility” and “should be a mobilising factor”, Satyarthi told AFP in an interview.

“I am hopeful this (practice) can end in my lifetime,” he said.

But for child labour to be wiped out, “You, me, everyone must take a stand. Otherwise it won’t be possible,” he pleaded.

“That means saying ‘no’ to products made by children,” Satyarthi added.

“It’s a question of humanising the problem and seeing each child as a person caught in a desperate situation.”

Satyarthi quit his electrical engineering career in 1980 to set up the grassroots Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save Childhood Movement, based in New Delhi, which rescues children working under often horrifying conditions.

He recounts that he was inspired “by a passion to help child workers” when aged six he saw another boy his age, who could not go to school because his family was too poor, repairing shoes.

The low-profile father-of-two in 1994 started Rugmark, now called GoodWeave International, that tags carpets as child-labour free and heads the Global March Against Child Labour, which unites 2,000 social groups and unions in 140 nations.

The number of child workers worldwide has fallen by one-third since 2000, but still remains as high as 168 million children, according to the International Labour Organization.

The tally of child workers in India is a matter of debate, but Unicef, the UN children’s agency, estimates around 28 million Indian children are employed.

In 2010, India passed a landmark Right to Education law, which provides free, compulsory schooling to children up to 14, but the law is only patchily enforced.

“Things have improved in India but the laws must be enforced and strengthened,” Satyarthi said.

The Nobel award “shines the light on these voiceless” child workers employed in such jobs as mining, agriculture and construction, making carpets and jewelry and as store helpers and servants, he said.

Children routinely work at least 12 hours a day while many are sexually exploited, according to Indian activists and police.

The Bachpan Bachao Andolan website says the group has “rescued more than 82,800 victims of trafficking, slavery and child labour” and helped them “find promising futures”.

The group said it rescued nine boys in a raid last month on automobile repair shops in New Delhi.

“Ironically, thousands of people who see children every day in tea stalls and workshops don’t have any empathy with them,” the website notes.

While India’s expanding economy is burnishing the middle class, there is also desperate misery. Poor families sometimes sell their children for work or as workers because they cannot feed them at home.

Some 24.7 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank, leading critics to argue that outlawing child labour is impractical.

But Satyarthi insists otherwise.

“I strongly maintain poverty must not be used as an excuse to perpetuate child labour and if no education is given to children, they remain poor,” he said.

“Child labour, illiteracy and poverty can be seen as a triangle,” Satyarthi added.

The Nobel prize is “something to fire all of us to carry on the fight against child-trafficking and servitude”.