LAHORE: A local charity organisation has undertaken a noble cause to bring children of social outcasts back to mainstream life, otherwise condemned to live an isolated life due to socially unbecoming and evil tag attached to their parents in their endeavours to earn a livelihood.
The Social Intervention Drive, a local NGO, has launched a project of creating learning hubs in the Walled City area to primarily engage children of dancing girls, musicians and orphans from ‘Red Light Area’ inside Texali Gate. These learning hubs have been set up in Texali Gate, Delhi Gate and Karim Park.
These children are imparted education and vocational skills free of cost as each of these leaning hubs contains an educational setup, a health facility and a vocational training centre set up with financial assistance by Akhuwat.
“These socially deserted children are more likely to be wronged and may easily fall prey to criminal activities and social vices like drugs, therefore, deserve special care to make them useful citizens of society again,” said Zerka Tahir, founder of SID, while talking to The News. SID is a consultancy and service provider group for welfare organisations, groups and individuals to establish participatory development models to ameliorate a lot of underprivileged segments of society. The first such intervention was establishing a library and a community centre at SOS Children’s Village.
Zerka Tahir said: “Amongst various communities that reside in Walled City, there was a large community of dancing girls and musicians proliferated in different areas in the Old Lahore. Many of them, traditionally residing in ‘Red Light Area’, notoriously known as Heera Mandi, over years now, have shifted outside of the Walled City due to decline of traditional dance and musical activities. The remaining community has resorted to illicit flesh trade as their sole source of income. Drugs and child abuse are also major vices of the areas.”
Living in close proximity to a densely populated area the other community and population are also at risk. Hence the purpose of this project is the rehabilitation of people living in the Walled City and its vicinity and to make them productive citizens of Pakistan, Zerka Tahir said.
Zerka said: “It’s an effort to set something right. As we were on a course-correction mission, there we met some children who don’t go to school when we discovered this reality, it made us realise that we as responsible citizens are doing nothing. Those were the children of dancing girls. They don’t even care about the education of the children. And many face the problem of acquiring a birth certificate as their mothers didn’t have any document of identity to give them a father’s name. They don’t apply for a birth certificate.”
Mothers were not interested in sending their children to school. And if they send them to school then they have to quit the profession. Their routine is very difficult to attend morning schools. That’s why we set the time from 1 pm to 5 pm for tuition centre. Then we started to explore the area of Texali and we came to know that there was already a school, Apni Taleem, but it was shut down in 2013 due to discontinuation of foreign funding. We started it again as it already has its roots there. There are approximately 1000 children in the area of Texali who don’t go to school. And this number is alarming.”
It is worth mentioning here that famous singers Ali Zafar and Uzair Jaswal and film producer Bilal Lashari have also been extending moral and financial assistance to the learning hub in various forms.
Amjad Saqib, founder and Chairman of Akhuwat, said that SID is nurturing those people who don’t have basic living rights. We give them grants to fulfill their regular needs and when they will be self-sufficient then they can raise their own funds.
They are working for a good cause without any discrimination of gender, caste or creed. They are even engaging transgender in this noble cause. We are always there for helping such social entrepreneurs, who are willing to help others. I myself visited the schools and their work is simply remarkable, he said.
Kamran Lashari, Director General of Walled City Authority, said, “It is very heartbreaking to see this kind of cruelty with kids in the heart of Lahore. Akhuwat played a very important role by financing the learning hub because they are doing a very good job to make lives of them who could not afford the basic needs of life. Majority of those kids grow up and become drug addicts and criminals, but by providing them education and other facilities we can make them a better part of the society. We are planning to do more for them so that they can help more children.”
Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, Chairman Technical Educational and Vocational Training Authority (Tevta), said, “We will start our vocational training courses from next month. IT, fashion designing, Chinese language, stitching and other modern vocational courses are on the list. In the first phase, we have allocated the budget of 1 crore for this project. After the first phase, we will start other courses for those children so they can participate in the society.”