The United Nations has been told that some 5,000 survivors of child sexual abuse have been successfully rehabilitated in just one province of Pakistan in the past five years.
Punjab Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB) Chairperson Sarah Ahmad disclosed this while speaking at an event held at the UN parallel to its General Assembly session to celebrate the establishment of a global regime of zero tolerance against child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence.
Sarah Ahmad was invited to represent Pakistan at the UN and showcase the success story of rescuing thousands of victims of child sexual abuse in the country.
She told the audience at the event comprising global dignitaries, including the president and first lady of Sierra Leone that she had the full backing of all the relevant state and government authorities in implementing a comprehensive programme to rehabilitate minor victims of sexual abuse.
She said the CPWB had been running a network of shelter homes all across Punjab for accommodation and rehabilitation of child victims of sexual violence.
The CPWB chairperson told the audience also comprising the first lady of Turkiye that the elaborate network of shelter homes in ten districts of the province could accommodate up to 1,200 children at a time.
“Most of these victims after successfully graduating from our rehabilitation programme are reunified with their families to lead normal lives,” she said.
She said the CPWB had on its panel doctors, psychologists, mental health and careers counsellors, and lawyers who actively took part in the rehabilitation programme.
Ahmad said that apart from formal education, the victims were allowed to learn the skills of fabric designing, hairstyling, professional cooking, etc. to enable them to honourably earn livelihood for their families. “We have collaboration for the purpose with leading designers, hairstylists, restaurants, and chefs for executing this skill development component of our rehabilitation programme,” she said.
She said the Punjab government provided full support including financial assistance for running the rehabilitation programme for the traumatised children.
Ahmad said the concerned philanthropists and donors also provided support to the CPWB for running the drive to transform the lives of child victims enrolled in its shelter homes.
She said she had proposed to the government the draft of the Child Protection Policy, the first such policy document prepared in Pakistan, to be implemented in Punjab.
She said the draft Child Protection Policy proposed establishing a common platform for all the relevant agencies and departments of the government to work collectively for the common cause of preventing abuse of the children. “At the moment these agencies mostly work in isolation for protection and rehabilitation of the affected children,” she said.
The CPWB chief said she had proposed that after its successful implementation in Punjab, the same policy should be replicated in other provinces.
She urged the government to get assistance from the concerned philanthropists for enrolling in schools 1.5 million vulnerable street children in Pakistan. “The state should fulfil this basic responsibility of enrolling all of these street children to save them from abuse, violence, and exploitation,” she added.
She praised the services of a social activist from Pakistan, Nadia Jamil, who also attended the event, for rehabilitation and protection of children facing abuse and violence.
Ahmad expressed sincere gratitude to all the authorities, departments, and agencies of the government that had been actively supporting the child protection and empowerment drive of the CPWB.