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June 25, 2019

Report notices Pakistan’s progress against child labour

Islamabad

June 25, 2019

Islamabad: As Save the Children, an international aid group, releases the latest Global Childhood Report, Pakistan’s score on the Childhood Index has gone up from 540 in 2000 to 626 in 2019 showing noticeable progress against child labour.

The report, however, said the country still has a lot to do to protect the people’s right to a safe and healthy childhood.The report, which was launched here on Monday during the closing ceremony of the ‘Children’s Action against Oppression and Neglect (CHAON)’ project funded by the IKEA Foundation, evaluates 176 countries on children’s access to health care, education, nutrition and protection from harmful practices like child labor and child marriage.

According to it, at least 280 million children have a better chance to grow up healthy, educated and safe than at any time in the last two decades.The CHAON successfully introduced child protection systems, accelerated learning and a school health programme in collaboration with Punjab and Sindh’s governments benefiting over 600,000 adults and over 800,000 children in the two provinces during eight years.

During the event, key achievements and learning from the project were shared with all stakeholders with Save the Children declaring its intent and strategy to help the children of Pakistan survive, learn and be protected.

Several Save the Children documentaries, a panel discussion and presentations by notable speakers were part of the event.Ghufran Hashmi of Save the Children shared the process of analysing the situation of children in Pakistan and formulating a country strategy to address their needs.

He also explained motivation behind the Global Childhood Report 2019 of how it demonstrates positive change for children and analyses gaps in 176 countries in terms of provision of child rights.MNA Nafeesa Khattak told participants that the well-being of children was something that the government alone couldn’t do.

“The organisations and civil society have to come out and be the eyes and ears for the government. I would like to invite them to the SDG office, inform us about their findings and how to implement them in the community by the government,” she said. Former Senator Farhatullah Babar said there were better facilities for children worldwide than there were a decade ago but unfortunately, things were not good for children in Pakistan as the child development had never been on the agenda of governments and political parties.

“The space for INGOs in the country has been shrinking for several years. The reason I came here is to raise voice for expanding the space for INGOs and NGOs, which are doing good work for child welfare. I advocate space for them,” he said.

Farhatullah Babar said there should be regulation and laws for such organisations by the government but that should happen through legislation after discussion involving all political parties and other stakeholders and not through whimsical executive orders,” he said.

“No matter what goals we set, what constitutional amendments and laws we make, unless the society changes course from a security driven state to a welfare driven state, we will not be able to achieve much,” he said.

Deputy head of DFID Kemi Williams said NGOs served the poorest and were able to get to the places that larger organisations like the one he worked for couldn’t reach as they had the support and trust of the local communities they served.

He, however, regretted that the work of NGOs was hampered by the registration process forcing international organisations to leave the country or restrict activities to the misery of the poorest people and workers.

Oxfam country director Mohammad Qazalbash the problem in Pakistan didn’t lie with the legislation or the Constitution, it rather lied with the implementation of those directives in which the government along with the civil society had a role to play.

“We have a very vast youth population in this country and if they are given the right opportunities, it will not only help the development of Pakistan but also help with the development of the region and the globe itself,” he said.

Marjolijn Verhoog, a representative of IKEA Foundation’s headquarters, appreciated Save the Children’s work and said his organisation sincerely hoped that the results and models of the CHAON project would be replicated in other parts of Pakistan.

Parliamentary secretary for national health services Dr Nosheen Hamid regretted that the legislation on child rights had lots of inconsistencies.

“Even the definition of a child according to various laws is ambiguous. We have put forward a recommendation to help reconcile such differences in the legal system which will allow for us to legally protect children in a better way,” she said.

Swedish ambassador Ingrid Johannson appreciated Save the Children and IKEA Foundation for working together in Pakistan to actualise child rights to a healthy and secure childhood.

“It’s hard if not impossible to find a better example of how civil society, NGOs and INGOs with a unique know how can complement the initiatives by the government and others. This can bring progress in a very complex but important way. These types of collaborations should be expanded and not constrained,” she said.

The ambassador said the children’s access to primary education should the government’s first and foremost priority issue as it would help end child labour.

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