NEW DELHI: Chennai-based lawyer and activist Lalitha Natarajan has won US Department of Labor’s 2023 Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labour. Natarajan was presented the award by Consul General Judith Ravin at a ceremony in the US Consulate General in Chennai on May 30.
As a leader in the fight to end exploitative child labor in southern India, Natarajan identifies child victims of trafficking, specifically bonded labor, assisting in their reintegration into society, the US consulate in Chennai said in a statement.
In her role as a member of the Child Welfare Committee (North Zone), under the Department of Social Defence, Tamil Nadu, Natarajan ensures victims receive compensation under the Child Labor Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act .
Besides working on child labour issues, Lalitha also provides legal and counseling support to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“This award will further motivate me to work for the cause of children. As a member of the Child Welfare Committee, I work closely with various State and Central government departments, judiciary, and police to ensure child rights offenders are convicted,” Natarajan said at the awards ceremony in Chennai.
“I especially want to recognise the child survivors of trafficking and bonded labor that I have fought for over many years and wish them peace,” she added.
“Her courageous efforts have contributed to obtaining social justice for India’s young people and most vulnerable populations. For over two decades, she has rescued children from forced labor in various industrial sectors across the state of Tamil Nadu, ranging from stone quarries to food processing factories to handloom mills,” Consul General Ravin said.
She added that the award recognises the life work of Natarajan that has brought real change to the lives of hundreds of Indian children.
The Iqbal Masih Award is a US Congress-mandated award established by the Secretary of Labor in 2008 that honors extraordinary contributions to combat child labour.
The award commemorates the World Day Against Child Labour that is observed on June 12 every year to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour.