Search for Justice (a leading civil society organization working for protection of children) and Children Advocacy Network- CAN Pakistan jointly urged federal and all provincial governments to make sure the effective implementation of laws and policies available for elimination of child labour in all sectors. This was urged during a roundtable on “How to Eliminate Child Labour in Pakistan” arranged by the Non-Government Organization to mark the world day against child labour 2021.
Iftikhar Mubarik Executive Director of Search for Justice shared that the year 2021 is declared as International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour by the United Nations. The International year requires full commitment from all segments of society for elimination of economic exploitation of children. It’s time to accelerate the pace of progress to inspire legislative and practical actions to eliminate child labour for good, said by Mr. Mubarik. In view of Mr. Mubarik Government of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan must include the Child Domestic Labour in the list of hazardous occupations for children as done by the Federal Government for ICT, while Government of the Punjab and Federal Government must take concreate measures to bar the children’s admission in domestic labour. The child domestic labourers usually face the cruel treatment by their employer who have control over them, but unfortunately except the Tayyaba Case in Islamabad there is no second example available in which the perpetrators got punishment funder the law. This also requires attention of the law makers to discuss and explore the ways to fix the deterrence under the law.
Rashida Qureshi Program Coordinator Search for Justice shared Globally, 152 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labour. About half of them (72.5 million) perform hazardous work that places their health, safety or moral development at risk. As per statistics extract from Pakistan’s Child Labour Survey 1996 3.3 million children are actively engaged in Child Labour. She mentioned that Pakistan was the first country who adopted SDGs declaring them as National Goals through a unanimous resolution of parliament. SDG target 8.7 calling all states for taking immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms, shared by Ms. Qureshi. To eliminate Child Labour the governments should develop action plans with specific targets set to gauge the effectiveness of interventions. Diversion towards technical and vocations courses could lead to achieve the decent work agenda and will support in increasing the child labour. In addition to this the government must strengthen the social protection programs aiming to uplift the marginalized segments of society to pull them off from poverty situations.
Sameer Haider a 15 years old Child and Executive Member of Children Advocacy Network shared that Child labour is defined by international standards as work that is hazardous, demands too many hours, or is performed by children who are too young. It harms children mentally, physically, socially, morally and interferes with their schooling, preventing them from attending or concentrating. It may involve them being enslaved, separated from their families, and exposed to serious hazards and illnesses thus the government should launch a comprehensive campaign to educate public about harms of child labour. Almost one third of children in child labour are completely outside the education system, and those that do attend perform poorly, said by Sameer.
Syed Miqdad Mehdi a Child Rights activist suggested to strengthen Child Labour Monitoring System for effective implementation of legal framework enacted at provincial and federal level. Keeping in view the huge population, the government must consider to establish Community-based child labour monitoring committees comprised of community leaders, teachers, local government representatives, religious leaders, who carry out monitoring visits to workplaces on a regular basis and often in conjunction with official visits by labour inspectors.
Anum Qureshi, a rights activist showed her concern that despite the enactment of “The Punjab Domestic Workers Act” in 2019 there is not a single case registered in contravention of section 3 of the act which clearly says that No Child under the age of 15 can be employed within jurisdiction of the province of Punjab as domestic worker. She proposed that government must establish such helpline or online platform where citizens can report in if they witness children as domestic workers in the surrounding. It is also equally important that government must ensure the implementation of minimum wages for workers as per standards approved by the Punjab Minimum Wages Board. She also urged for strengthening inter-departmental coordination through a formal mechanism between departments and authorities working for the children or with the children to ensure the coherence among the actions of relevant departments.