Children’s Day : beyond candles and confetti

Every year, The International Children Day comes up with countless questions, especially in Pakistan. Certainly the most important one, had the government of Pakistan achieved its goal to ensure all children have an access to quality education, proper food and most importantly, safety? Statistics from the past shows that children have always been at a risk of being exploited and taken advantage of. This has been happening since forever, unfortunately.

25 years ago a child was shot to death when he asked for a right to have a pen in his hand rather than tools. This child was a bonded labor, being sent to work in a carpet factory at the age of 4. He worked there for 6 years, every day before dawn till sunset, tightly bounded with chains to the carpet looms to prevent him from escaping. At the age of 10, he heard that The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared bonded slavery illegal so he ran away. After his escape, he attended Bonded Labor Liberation Front (BLLF ) School which gave further horizons to his thoughts. He understood that there is a desperate need to speak up against child labor so he decided this could be his own voice. Therefore, he started campaigning against carpet mafias which thrived on child labor which gave him international attention and he won several awards for his work and struggles. His work for this cause inspired several NGOs, “Free the Child” is one of such organizations based in Canada. It was then a 12 years old became threat to the centuries old system of cruel bonded slavery. So, it wasn’t long before he was shot dead. His name was Iqbal Masih. He man aged to free over 3000 children from slavery but this was just a beginning and there was a long way to go.

The question is, have we as a nation contributed towards Mashih’s cause or it stopped with his breath? The number of child labor is as high as 12.5 million in Pakistan.

With 38.8% population living in poverty and with one in four individuals living in acute poverty, parents are not left with any other choice than to send their children to earn. In 2014, The U.S Department of Labor reported 6 goods produced by child labors in Pakistan. These include the making of bricks, carpets, glass bangles, leather and surgical instruments, as well as the coal mining.

Pakistan Government had took an initiative to support such underprivileged families, they give funds to parents to send their children to schools instead of a mine. This program is available to parents of children aged 5-16.

However, an initiative or a single program cannot eradicate this deep rooted culture of child labor in Pakistan. We need collected efforts to tackle this issue, there’s a dire need to address and report whenever you see child labor happening. Imagine what these 12.5 million children are capable of if they are inside the schools and not mines or factories.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.

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