If the children cannot be taken out of work because they supplement family incomes, they can be compensated by making provision for their education and self-development


Dec 22 - 28, 2003




The Universal Children's Day (UCD) was observed throughout the country by arranging meetings/functions/walks. Pakistan also expressed their views on child labour and the measures for enhancing welfare of the underprivileged children. Press reports of proceedings show progress in certain areas but many other areas badly need improvement which can come only through concerted efforts in the right direction, both by the government and the people. As part of the awareness campaign, this article briefly describes the spirit of UCD, priority area for elimination of child labour; ongoing initiatives and suggestions for enhancing their effectiveness.

During celebrations of UCD organized by different associations including UNICEF, at Karachi on 19th November, the audience mostly students were informed that the General Assembly had adopted the declaration of the Rights of the Child on ten principles, of which four briefly are: (i) The best interests of the child should be the first consideration for actions that effect him or her; (ii) All children have the right to life, survival, and development; (iii) All children have the right to participate, and all rights belong to all children without discrimination or exception; and (iv) The rights include education, play, health, special protection and voice in matters that affect children. Duration the celebrations, one of the students of DHA School said that being children of the privileged classes, they acknowledge the problems faced by the underprivileged children and would like to do more.

The ILO officials, on 19th November, outlined the National Time-bound Programme in Pakistan, which involves revision of legislation and enforcement, child labour monitoring, empowerment of child labourers' families and raising of awareness. It was said that through a rapid assessment survey some 21,769 children were found involved in worst forms of child labour in six districts in tanneries, surgical industry, manufacturing of glass bangles, coal mines, deep sea fishing and as rag-pickers. The US Ambassador speaking at the occasion said that a grant of $4 million to be disbursed over a period of four years through ILO for elimination of the worst forms of child labour would help rescue and

rehabilitate some 11,000 children from hazardous occupations. She said the US government was also helping in carrying out a survey on child labour. Outlining the steps taken by her ministry, the education minister said a fund of Rs100 million was established for the education of working children.

The President, speaking at a UDC function on 20th November called for a proactive public-private partnership for sustained development of children. The president also signed a pledge urging the stakeholders for concerted efforts and mobilizing the masses for the better future of children. The government had done well in tackling child labour and hundreds of children have been taken to schools in Sialkot district, for which the country has won international appreciation. He regretted that girls were not given proper food as compared to boys in the patriarchal society. He said that 700,000 to 800,000 students studying in religious schools needed formal education to become doctors and engineers.

The Prime Minister said that the children were country's greatest asset and called upon the society, NGOs, philanthropists, media, corporate sector, parents and teachers to come forward and play their role to improve the lives of the children. The prime minister's adviser on women's development and social welfare said that 34% of the children in the country never went to school, 38% were malnourished and 28% were born with low weight and in the country 3.3 million children were working as labourers.

If the children cannot be taken out of work because they supplement family incomes, they can be compensated by making provision for their education and self-development. This was stated in a letter published by daily Dawn on 22nd November. According to the writer, the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) had in March 2000 established a child development centre (CDC) in Sher Shah, Karachi, where at present 212 working/street children are being given education through computers and skill-based activity learning. Regular meetings are arranged to discuss the issues/matters related to the children, with their families and employers. Timings of CDC are flexible, thus facilitating attendance of working children. Local employers of factories, auto workshops, power looms, shops and industries have been very cooperative. They often relax the workload and the timings so that the children can come to CDC. The programme is fully funded by SEF, which from this year has started giving support to four more centres. The writer of the letter has requested that the government of Sindh consider these centers as models that can be replicated in other parts of the province.

The provincial coordinator of the Society for Protection of Rights of Children reportedly said that over 70,000 minor girls are forced into child labour in kilns throughout the Punjab and that 60,000 children were forced into child labour in the most hazardous professions like tanneries, scavenging, surgical instruments, glass bangle, coal mining and fishing. Most of the children earned their livelihood from car and shoe polishing, begging, working at hotels, workshops and factories. The position in other provinces would also be more or less like that in Punjab. Almost on every day there are press reports of incidences of violence against children, including murder, rape of minor girls or sodomy of boys, sometimes followed with murder; severe injuries at the hands of the exploiters or in road accidents, kidnapping including those for ransom.

For effective implementation of all initiatives, we should be clear as to what Child Labour is and what are the priority areas to be tackled first, within our limited resources? The clarifications are thankfully provided using extracts from an ILO guide on Convention-182, as under:

1- Children's or adolescents' participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling is generally regarded as being some-thing positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents care for the home and the family, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. It contributes to children's development and to the welfare of their families; it provides them with skills, attitudes and experience, and helps to prepare them to be useful and productive members of society during their adult life. In no way can such activities be equated with child labour.



2- Child labour refers to work that: (i) is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and (ii) interferes with their schooling: by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; by obliging them to leave school prematurely; or by requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work. In its most extreme forms, it involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities all of this often at a very early age. Child labour is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

3- The Convention requires ratifying States to take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency. The Convention applies to all girls and boys under the age of 18. It defines the worst forms of child labour as: (i) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, as well as forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (ii) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; (iii) the use, procurement or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in relevant international treaties; and (iv) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children, such harmful work to be determined by national authorities.

4- Giving priority to combating the worst forms of child labour is simply a matter of doing first things first. It provides an entry point to promote and facilitate further action to attain the ultimate goal.

5- Child labour slated for abolition falls into the following three categories: (i) Labour that is performed by a child who is under the minimum age specified for that kind of work (as defined by national legislation, in accordance with accepted international standards), and that is thus likely to impede the child 's education and full development; (ii) Labour that jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, known as hazardous work; and (iii) The unconditional worst forms of child labour, which are internationally defined as slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities.

Mr. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, in February 2001 during a symposium on Child Labour at Stanford University talked about the experience from his country. As the theme of the paper is relevant to our situation and might help us devise our remedial actions, main points in his paper are gratefully summed up below for public awareness:



1- According to him, in 1995, an agreement was signed between the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the ILO and the UNICEF to remove all child workers below fourteen years from more than 2,000 garment factories, placing them instead in schools. This project involves the phased withdrawal of more than 10,000 child workers from the industry. Within one year of concluding the agreement, 205 schools had been established for garment child workers, with a total enrollment of over 4,000 children. Placement of these child workers in formal education is being eased by providing families the possibility of supplementary incomes. To ensure implementation of the agreement, a monitoring mechanism consisting of representatives of all the parties to the agreement is in place. The project generated enough interest in Bangladesh that in just two years child labor has become a major social issue in the country.

2- There is a need to tackle wider issues in the efforts to eliminate child labor. Poverty is often cited the single most important issue that contributes to child labor. But poverty has to be understood within the broader context of resource availability, distribution and social justice. For adopting such an inclusive agenda for the child worker, resources are needed. People are generally reluctant to back words with resources. The interest of the child on the one hand and that of export industries or organized labor on the other often compete with one another. The policies most advantageous for children are not the ones promoted by industry or organized labor. Within the country any move to include a child focus into policies on child labor cannot be sustained if the civil society is not proactive and engaged.

3- The above challenges can be addressed by the following measures: (i) Awareness is the key to building a successful campaign against child labor. The civil society, the government and the officials that design and implement policy have to be aware of this problem; (ii) Policies at national and international levels should facilitate measures that prevent child labor, protect the victims and punish those guilty of perpetuating misery on children; (iii) The institutions and organizations that speak on behalf of the child worker will have to be proactive; (iv) Partnership among governments, international and regional organizations and civil society organizations and the officials can bring in this much needed "child' dimension into the agenda on child labor; and (v) All this would not be effective without taking on board the child worker and taking into account his views.

The situation of child labour, despite remedial efforts, is grave and calls for collective actions as earlier prescribed by the President and the Prime minister. New country-wide initiatives with the support from the government as well as the philanthropists require to be undertaken on urgent basis. The experience from different initiatives in the country particularly the elimination of child labour in making of footballs in Sialkot and the Child Development Centre, set up by the Sindh Education Foundation in Sher Shah, Karachi might suit our needs and resource base for tacking child labour. Also, the experience of a project in Bangladesh for rehabilitating the child workers in garment making might have useful lessons for us. Certainly there are many other relevant projects which today are not known to us but with effort could be known and adapted for our country. District-wise data on child workers employed in different organized or unorganized industries, professions or workshops as well as data on children confined to various jails or institutions for juvenile offenders would help in devising and implementation of appropriate remedial policies. Strong awareness campaign by the government may pave the way for wider participation by the people particularly the students and their parents in the elimination of child labour.