Congratulations to Our 2023 Winner!

Lalitha Natarajan

Lalitha holding 2023 award

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Lalitha Natarajan has championed the fight against child labor and modern slavery as an activist and ally for vulnerable communities in India for over 20 years.

She has rescued children from forced labor in various industrial sectors across the state of Tamil Nadu, including food processing factories and handloom mills. As Project Coordinator with the NGO League for Education and Development, Natarajan engaged with elected leaders and law enforcement officials to rescue child laborers from stone quarries, provide life skills training to support their reintegration into society and enroll them in a year-long training program supported by the Tamil Nadu government.

Her awareness-raising work in Tamil Nadu's Kancheepuram district enhanced the state government's research and reporting capacity, leading to more accurate data and increasing the number of reported child labor cases in the heirloom industry from 6,000 to more than 12,300.

Natarajan is currently a practicing advocate in the High Court of Madras. Since embarking on her legal career in 2015, she has focused on women's and children's rights issues. She has fought cases for individuals and families who have suffered from bonded labor where there is little or no recourse to legal aid. In the face of repeated harassment and threats, she has continued her work to hold powerful figures in Indian society accountable for their complicity or inaction in addressing child labor and bonded labor.

Iqbal Masih

About the Iqbal Masih Award

The Iqbal Masih Award is a non-monetary award presented annually by the U.S. Secretary of Labor and administered by ILAB's Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking. This page outlines the eligibility criteria, the nomination process and the administrative procedures for this award.