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July 10, 2018

‘22.6m children currently out of school’

Islamabad

July 10, 2018

Islamabad: As many as 22.6 million children are currently out of school in Pakistan, a country where the budgetary allocation for education is an insignificant 2.5% of the GDP. The total number of juvenile prisoners in Pakistan by the end of December 2017was 1,198, informs SPARC’s Annual State of Pakistan’s Children 2017 report.

The findings of the report were disseminated Monday at the National Press Club, where state functionaries, human and child rights activists, media personnel, officials from NGOs and donor agencies, as well as children from SPARC’s Centre for Street Children in Rawalpindi had assembled for the event.

The panellists included President of Heartfile Dr. Sania Nishtar, child rights protection technical expert Naheed Aziz, human rights defender Tahira Abdulah, Executive Director of SAHIL Manizeh Bano Chairman Dost Welfare Foundation Dr. Parveen Azam and former Member of National Assembly and Chairperson of SPARC Dr. Attiya Inayatullah.

Comprising 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 labour across Pakistan.

Addressing the gathering, the guest of honour Dr. Attiya Inayatullah urged the media to raise awareness about child rights with concrete statistics. Dr. Sania Nishtar appreciated SPARC’s research about Infant Mortality Rate, which stood at 86 children per 1,000 live births in Pakistan during 2017, with the number of unsafe abortions each year being in the range of 890,000.

The Executive Director of SPARC Dr. Fakhar Sohail said, “Effective implementation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is in the hands of everybody including, NGOs, government officials, international organizations and communities. I would like to avail this opportunity to encourage everyone to play their role in the promotion, protection, implementation and evaluation of child rights in the country.”

Senior Programme Officer Sajjad Cheema emphasised the need for legislative development and effective implementation and monitoring of laws. Sharing the findings, research representative Minal Kiani said, “It is quite saddening that Pakistan has been ranked at 125 according to Human Capital Development Report of 2017, 130 being the lowest rank. There is an immediate need to invest more in human capital development for higher productivity of individuals in the future.”

The key recommendation emerging from the event was that a national child labour survey should immediately be conducted, since there has been none since 1996. The report also identified the increasing prevalence of violence against children in the country by presenting statistics regarding child marriages, honour killings, and child sexual abuse.

Manizeh Bano from Sahil shared that the number of reported cases of child sexual abuse in has declined from 4,139 in 2016 to 3,445 in 2017. She underlined the need for representation of children from minorities and ethnic groups so they do not get deprived of their rights.

Dr. Parveen Azam from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa shared efforts being made by the civil society in areas of juvenile justice and street children, and gave a call for collaborative efforts involving the government and civil society.

Joint Secretary Press Club Fouzia Rana commended SPARC’s efforts for protection of child rights and acknowledged the media’s role in bringing the issues to the table. Tahira Abdullah recommended that the State should come on a common ground for implementation of child labour laws.

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