In 1998, a march to protest child labor involving people in 107 countries made Yuka Iwatsuki realize that the issue, which she had been interested in since college, was a global movement. She also realized that there were no organizations in Japan leading the global fight.

"This is the perfect opportunity to inform people of the realities of child labor," she remembers thinking at the time.

Iwatsuki, 44, together with a few college friends, had formed Action against Child Exploitation (ACE), a group working to combat child labor that went on to achieve official nonprofit organization status in 2005.