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April 28, 2017

Annual State of the Children Report 2016 launched


April 28, 2017

Over 22 million out of school children in country, number reduced marginally


Annual State of the Children Report 2016 launched on Thursday highlighted the increasing need to collaborate and coordinate with multiple stakeholders to bring the issue of children to the forefront of policy making.

Presenting a bleak picture of the state of children in Pakistan, the report points out the absence of necessary measures that can help protect children despite the growing incidences of violence and abuse against children in the country.

Launched by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), the report says that there are over 22 million out of school children in the country and over the years, the number of children out of school has only reduced marginally. It says that the track record of provincial governments in efficiently utilising allocated funds is not very encouraging. Evidence of that are

The report questions the poor implementation of Article 25-A of the Constitution which gives each child a right to education. It says that the employment of children, particularly in sectors like agriculture, factories, brick kilns, street vending and car workshops, remains unaddressed.

The report terms domestic child labour as another pressing issue, for which meaningful legislation is yet to see light of day. Many bills, associated to informal sector and prohibition of child labour, are still stuck in paperwork.

It highlights the fact that nearly half of all children in Pakistan are chronically malnourished, undermining their mental and physical growth. Among other health related challenges, it mentions polio where Pakistan remains one of the only two countries left among polio-endemic nations list and shares more than half of the global polio burden. It says that the condition of healthcare can be assessed by the fact that Pakistani policymakers prefer foreign healthcare facilities rather than opting for public or even private sector hospitals in Pakistan for their own treatment.

“Be it child sexual abuse, corporal punishment, early child marriages continue unabated as there seems to be a dearth of moral vocabulary to adequately condemn these issues. Rights of minorities and of the disabled seem even harder to come by as both vulnerable groups face discrimination in the social, economic and political realms,” say the report regarding violence against children. 

Speaking at the event, Executive Director SPARC Sadia Hussain said that children's rights have long been a neglected issue. “While there has been progress in legislation related to child rights, Pakistan still lags behind international standards due to the poor implementation of existing child protection laws as well as a general lack of awareness on key issues”.

Explaining the report’s findings lead researcher Farshad Iqbal said that the year 2016 came with the stark revelation that Pakistan has failed to achieve its targets under the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The reasons for this failure aren’t hard to identify, considering nearly 22 million children are still out of school, whereas nearly 50 per cent of children in Pakistan are chronically malnourished.

“Furthermore, the Human Capital Development Report, 2016 has also ranked Pakistan at a dismal 118. The situation calls for immediate and effective policy measures with a strong adherence to and implementation of existing legislation, and a future course of action that can help Pakistan achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030,” said Farshad. 

Comprising of a multi-faceted overview of the state of Pakistan’s children, the report has for the last two decades been systematically documenting the evolution of child protection laws, social attitudes and key developments, with an annual overview of the state of child rights in Pakistan. This includes detailed figures on the state of education, health, juvenile justice, violence against children and child labor across Pakistan.

The launch was attended by representatives from various walks of life including social activists, government officials and journalists all of whom shared their views on the dismal state of Pakistan’s children.

Speaking at the occasion, Minister of State for Education Engineer Balighur Rehman commended SPARC for its continued efforts and highlighted the importance of the report in the current socio-economic environment. He pointed out that over the last three years, the government has made a concerted effort in improving lives of its children which is evident for instance in the increase in HEC’s allocated budget of Rs40 billion to Rs90 billion for tertiary education.

Also present at the occasion was Director General Ministry of human Rights Hassan Mangi who explained how the government was working tirelessly on certain child specific laws which are very close to being passed.

Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Justice (r) Ali Nawaz Chohan criticised government for making too many laws without due focus on implementation mechanisms.

The launch also presented an opportunity for SPARC to distribute its Child Award for Excellence, to recognise the contribution of Eiza Abid to the cause of children’s rights. Awards for child sensitive reporting were also presented to journalists for their contributions to the cause.

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