Iqra Javed

Child labour means working in early age to meet his/her necessities. It has escalated worldwide.

The reason behind child labour is not only the poverty but also negligence, unemployment, lack of education, overpopulation, environmental destruction like flood, earthquake, migration etc. A study by United Nations Children Emergency Fund (Unicef) estimated 158 million children in the world are part of labour work, which include wage labour, domestic, non-domestic and non-monitory work.

Child labour includes girls and boys who are working since their childhood either being distantly from their homes or living in the streets because of homelessness. Children who are facing violence at their homes are likely to leave their places. They are hired by different mafias and militant wings for forced labour.

Pakistan is on 154th rank out of 181 in Global Children Rights Index. Another private survey said there are 1.5 million street children in Pakistan. The report by Uniceif (2017) stated that 16% children aged from 5 to 17 engage in labour work and are more vulnerable to abuse.

Factors behind child labour

Children from worst financial strata or populated household are forced to earn livelihood or they often belong to the families, live and sleep on the streets around the town or at the garbage dump. To fulfill the basic needs of food and other necessities, they work for minimal wages under unfriendly and tough environment. More worrisome is they have to sometimes eat unhygienic and inedible food from garbage dump to satisfy hunger which make them more vulnerable to harmful diseases.

Moreover, orphan children are coerced into work out of home for monetary purpose because they alone have to survive. They prefer shoe shining, car cleaning or hawking at roads/streets, auto repair shop work, stations, markets, garbage dumping points, brick kiln, farm fields, small industries, domestic services and carpet weaving, garbage carrier to be hired easily in cheapest wages. Most of children work in manufacturing and different industries like tobacco. The industries avail their services in low cost and hard work.

More worryingly, underprivileged families sell their children to fulfill their financial necessities. As a result, these kids are misused by mafias or gangs for begging and other harmful acts like prostitutions or slavery or sometimes, non-state actors use them for accomplishing their nefarious designs of terrorism. Boys who work and live on streets become target of militant wings who shape their personality as a terrorist. They are also involved to exchange of drugs, abduction etc.

Furthermore, the entire situation seems more complex for girls. They are appointed as fulltime maid in houses where the employer regards them as personal property and violates basic children rights, harass them physically and mentally which often results in tragic consequences. In 2019, Uzma, a 16-year-old maid, working for eight months, was allegedly killed by her female employers over a trivial issue. Another 10-year-old girl Tayyaba, working as domestic helper, was found injured from the house of a sessions judge. This is awful behavior by our educated lot.

Emergent proceedings to end child labour

Children are the masons for future, if they survive, the nation will move forward.

We must proceed with serious initiatives to eradicate the curse of child labour. There are few practices which can be useful to adopt.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is an underdeveloped country with overpopulation. Our citizens disesteem adopted child. This aspect totally ignored the children having no or worst background. We must look back towards kids who are neglected in society. If you are financially stable, invest for the needs of these kids to boost the future of Pakistan.

Pakistan has 64% of young population in which approximately 445,000 students graduate yearly. These graduates can put their efforts voluntarily by implementing “each one, teach one” theory of Noble Laureate Malala Yousufzai. For this purpose, promoting reading and writing campaigns must be started individually. Political parties prefer to active participation of youth wings. These wings can influence to promulgate special legislation for children rights and their special education. Our educated youth can start counselling programs for supporting self-development theme among them by which they shall be able to share their concerns. They can provide also parents counselling to eliminate it. Large number of youth connects to civil society, can conduct workshops/awareness campaigns which can play a vital role to make them cognizant about rights. By knowing workplace harassment, physical and mental abuses, they will be able to identify the gangs or mafias, hire them for extreme level crime such as prostitutions because they are accessible target. Every child has right to access resources of education. Therefore, those children who are helping out families or their selves to earn livelihood must be encouraged to attend school. Flexible hours and days may be arranged to enroll large number of kids into schools. Special technical education assistance with proper toolkit should be provided to such children. These trainees must be further funded for their personal startups.

Media is the fourth pillar of the state. To rehabilitate them, it can enforce government and child protection organisations for implementation on legislation. Everyone should comply with the law and not incite anyone to break it. Influential people must be approached for using their power to force industrialists to arrange special shelter, educational and health facilities mandatory for children.Youth has vast social activism through digital platforms. Through citizen journalism, social media platforms can monitor the issues of vulnerable or victim children to all levels of society to let them know what is child labour and how to mitigate?

The writer is Youth Ambassador, Youth Empowerment Program, UNDP.