Pakistan

Police, activists agree to ensure provision of essential services to street children

Search for Justice, National Commission for Human Rights and Child Protection & Welfare Bureau jointly arranged the consultative meeting on Legislative and Policy Reforms to address the issues of Street Connected Children, organized with the support of Consortium for Street Children and agreed for expediting the process for development of comprehensive child protection policy and strategies for working in collaboration to ensure the provision of essential services education, health, identity, and protection to children living in street situations.

The meeting was attended by the senior representatives from School Education Department, Labour & Human Resource Department, Primary Healthcare Department, Punjab Social Protection Authority, Literacy & Non-Formal Basic Education Department, Human Rights & Minorities Affairs Department, Child Protection & Welfare Department, Parks & Horticulture Authority and Punjab Police. 

Rashida Qureshi Program Coordinator Search for Justice shared that all children have the right to access essential services such as education, healthcare and protection services, no matter where they call home. Street children, already vulnerable before the onset of the pandemic, have always struggled to access these essential services, not least because they often don’t have the required documentation.

She said that economic poverty plays a major role, although other factors are of equally high importance. These can include parental deaths, parental neglect and other social factors such as violence and abuse of children at home or within communities.

Iftikhar Mubarik Executive Director Search for Justice shared that it is crucial to ensure effective coordination among relevant departments supported by adequate allocation of funds to ensure the provision of essential services for street connected children.

He added that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended Pakistan in its concluding observations to ensure that children in street situations are provided with adequate protection and assistance, nutrition, and shelter as well as with health care and educational opportunities in order to support their full development.

Lahore SSP Operations Ahsan Saifullah said the Police are always there to assist any department, organization or individual where required under the requirement of law. He agreed with the suggestion of Search for Justice for collaborating in training of Police Officials on Children related laws, development and printing of IEC material and nomination of a senior police representative as Child Protection Focal person, who can be contacted in cases related to violence against children of prompt action.

Syed Miqdad Mehdi, Legal expert on Child Rights stressed that keeping in view the mandates of different government departments under their Rules of Business, a coordination committee can be established to ensure the smooth flow of information among relevant departments. As the problems of street connected children are quite diverse in nature, so improved coordination among relevant departments will serve as a collective platform for joint planning and implementation of agreed programs. Enhanced coordination among departments would lead towards reducing the overlapping and efficient utilization of resources, said by Mr. Mehdi. 

Arshad Abbasi, assistant professor social work department University of the Punjab urged government, to invest in good quality initial and in-service basic training on child rights, child protection and the local context of children in street situations for all professionals who may come into direct or indirect contact with children in street situations, in such areas as policymaking, law enforcement, justice, education, health, social work and psychology.

Sarah Ahmed, Chairperson Child Protection & Welfare Bureau, Punjab shared that the CPWB has not implemented the section 20 of “The Punjab Destitute & Neglected Children Act” to oversight the organizations providing alternative care to children. She also added that the Punjab Government has increased the allocation of budget in 2021-22 for expanding stagewise child protection services in the whole province of Punjab. She also shared that the CPWB has done the initial processes and brainstorming on the framework of Child Protection Policy and soon with the support of diverse stakeholders the Government will be able to start the policy development process.

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