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The bleak future of millions of children in Sindh: Universal children day

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Children urged the district and provincial governments to invest funds and take extraordinary steps to protect children’s future and ensure their right to life, survival, health, and education in the province.

Children of different school clubs in Benazirabad had gathered in a seminar -organized by the Hari Welfare Association and the District Social Welfare Department- to mark the Universal Children Day and its theme on ‘A Better Future for Every Child.’ HWA organizes children’s clubs.

Sabreen, Child Club Leader said that in 2019, 861 cases of child abuse were reported in Sindh by Sahil NGO, including 155 cases of abduction, 231 cases of missing children, and 85 cases of child marriages. In the same year, of the total 104 child marriage cases, 82 percent were reported in Sindh. Moreover, in the year, of the ten most vulnerable districts of abduction in Pakistan, seven belonged to Sindh, which are Khairpur, Sukkur, Larkana, Hyderabad, Dadu, Ghotki, and Nusheroferoz. These cases reveal the protection of children is not ensured by the state and the relevant authorities in every manner.

He added that in 2020, the same number (861) of children were abused in the province. This includes 390 cases of child sexual abuse, 190 children were abducted, 231 cases of missing children, and 81 cases of child marriages.

Rabea, Child club leader shared that in 2016-17, Pakistan Education Statistics reported 6.4 million children, including 3.3 million girls out-of-school in the province. They were deprived of their fundamental right to education. Child club leader added that these out-of-school children were unable to attend school because of poverty, no nearby schools, lack of government’s interest to invest in education, lack of awareness, and higher rates of corporal punishment.

Kashaf Parveen, Child Club leader stated that the higher illiteracy rate results from a feudal structure that forces the poor to stay in the cycle of poverty and marginalization. He also said that most of the schools in the province were without basic facilities, which hampered education. He added that in some areas, schools did not exist if these existed but without school buildings.

On occasion, President HWA, Akram Ali Khaskheli said that on universal children’s day, each district department should have organized activities to make aware children and adults of their rights but the government had little interest in it. He added that for the last one decade, around three human rights institutions (i.e., the Sindh Child Protection Authority, the Sindh Human Rights Commission and the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women) are set up and at the national level national commission on the rights of the child (NCRC) has been established. However, children’s future in Sindh is not bright, but these institutions cannot decrease sufferings for children. He said that the worst forms of child and bonded labor are also prevalent in the district, but no steps are taken to address these issues. The relevant human rights institutions merely do lip service. Still, they do not push the government to set up adequate systems and mechanisms at the district levels to protect children from slavery in agriculture, brick kiln, bangle, garment, and other sectors of the economy. Also, protect them from abuse and exploitation.

Child Protection Officer Shaheed Benazirabad said that every child has right to protection and after 18th amendement Sindh has child protection authority, under this authority we have established Child Protection Units in each district for the protection of children.

Additional director Social Welfer Department (SWD) Sabir Qureshi said that it our collective responsibility to ensure child rights, SWD is striving to protect and promote child rights in the province.

Abid Lashari from National Disability Forum, Zaib-ul-Nisa Incharge complaint cell Women Development Department, Asif-ul-Bashr from HRCP, Abul Rehman Khaskheli from SWD also spokes in the seminar.

Children in the seminar demanded that the government allocate more funds for building schools, appoint female teachers, and initiate rigorous monitoring.

They also requested that children and women immunization scales be spread to rural areas, and special services should be started to support malnourished children. These also urged the government to expand child protection mechanisms at the tehsil level to protect children’s future.

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