World Day Against Child Labour

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Protect Childhood, End Child Labor: A Call to Action in Sindh- Speakers demanded

Karachi, The World Day Against Child Labour event, organized to address child labor in Sindh, brought together policymakers, officials, civil society, and humanitarian organizations to discuss and strategize future measures to eradicate child labor. The Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) jointly celebrated under the theme “Let’s act on our commitments: End Child Labour!”

Despite national policies, Pakistan has one of the highest child labor rates in South Asia. Stakeholders urged collective action from governments, employers, workers, and civil society to eliminate child labor. The negative impacts of child labor include health and safety risks, disrupted education, hindered development, reduced productivity, increased crime, exploitation, damage to international image and human rights, psychological harm, impaired cognitive growth, and links to trafficking and crime.

Iqbal Ahmed Detho, Chairperson of SHRC, welcomed participants and highlighted Universal Children’s Day on November 20, reflecting on the establishment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He discussed slow societal changes despite laws protecting children’s rights and noted the urgent need to address the 30,000 street children in Karachi. Detho emphasized SHRC’s efforts to incorporate Human Rights education in schools, referencing Article 25A of the Pakistani Constitution on free education. Despite a 3 billion rupee budget for textbooks, challenges remain in distribution. SHRC proposed a Book Bank and emphasized proper use of School Management Committee funds. He also highlighted the Sindh Protection and Promotion of Breast-Feeding and Young Child Nutrition Act 2023 to improve child nutrition.

Dr. Fozia Hameed, MPA – MQM-Pakistan Highlighted the gap between legislation and implementation in Sindh. She called for large-scale campaigns and technical education to combat child labor.

Gul Masoti, a Board Member of SPARC, Stressed the need for effective implementation of child labor laws and shared success stories of children overcoming labor through education.

Mirza Ishtiaq Baig, from the business community and President of Make-A-Wish Foundation, expressed joy in celebrating Children’s Day. He highlighted Make-A-Wish’s efforts in fulfilling the wishes of clinically ill children, sharing touching stories. Baig drew attention to the 25 million out-of-school children in Pakistan, emphasizing the severity of the issue by comparing it to a criminal offense, where children should have books but are instead working with bricks. He contrasted this with Morocco’s high literacy rate and stressed the importance of investing in Pakistan’s future generation to avoid jeopardizing the nation’s future.

Dr. Junaid Memon Alam, Professor of Development Studies, at IBA University Karachi, Emphasized every child’s right to education, sharing his journey from hard work to becoming a professor.

Shumaila Muzzamil, SPARC Advised children to understand their rights and pursue happiness. She highlighted the hard work of child laborers and referenced key article 32 of UNCRC and 11 Pakistan’s Constitution.

Kashif Mirza, Program Manager at SPARC, showcased a documentary on child labor, focusing on schools and drug abuse in Machar Colony. He discussed SPARC’s efforts, including a letter to the Education Department about the colony’s schools. Mirza also expressed solidarity with the children of Gaza, highlighting their plight.

Rana Asif Habib, President of the Initiator Human Development Foundation, emphasized that child labor acts as a barrier to children’s education. He also shared his experience of working in Machar Colony for a decade and stressed the importance of treating children with respect and care. Despite efforts by government departments to eliminate child labor, the issue persists on a significant scale.

A panel discussion of children on child labor was held alongside a theatre performance addressing the same issue.

Representatives from SPARC, SHRC, and other partner organizations highlighted the urgent need for concrete actions against child labor in Pakistan. They emphasized that child domestic labor is exploitative, violates human rights, and hinders social and economic development. They also pointed out that poverty, inflation, and the lack of affordable education are key factors driving children into labor.