Saturday, October 3, 2009

Paradise lost on earth

By Sabina Rizwan Khan
Children are the symbol of hope for the future in any country. They are considered to be the next builder of nation, but unfortunately these innocent beings are at the verge of destruction as the stigma of child labour is deterioting them.

Child labour has emerged as a global phenomenon and found almost in all countries. The child labour problem has been in focus since eighties and caught the world's attention after the adoption of the of the Convention on the Rights of the child by the UN General Assembly in November 1989.

Since then various attempts have been made to control such practices but still a lot is need to be done. According to The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), over 100 million boys and girls aged between 5 and 14 work as child laborers.

When we look at Pakistan, the situation seems even worse as ILO quotes:
“In Pakistan 67 % of children are said to be involved in agriculture, 11 %in the carpet sector, 5% in Brick kilns and 9 % in the wholesale and retail, followed by 8 % in community, social and personal services.”
Though the government of Pakistan has been trying to bring changes in the scenario, but no vital signs has been witnessed so far. According to the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, "No child below the age of fourteen shall be engaged in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment".

The constitutional aspect attached to the issue is enough to understand that how significant the matter is. But sadly it is easily being ignored. These young children are found working at street signals, pathan hotels, factories, garages, and often at homes as servants. The most tragic part is that these minors work in harsh conditions and get less amount of return.

According to UN report daily an average child give 10 to 15 hours to labour. Also, there are no safe guards for these children, if they get injured or hurt there are no compensations made. There are many in home factories working privately in Karachi, and if a child gets hard it he or she is forced to come to work the next day, because of which these children often fell ill or even loses their lives. Besides that, these children are also a victim of sexual abuse and drug addiction, which is again a big problem. On an average, in Karachi, a street child does not live up to 15 years of age.

A survey of working children in Karachi showed that they were between the ages of 12-14 years (mean = 13.91 yrs), with average family size of 7.4 members and average family income was Pak Rupees 2,884/month.12 The children had an average income of Pak Rupees 615/month (range: 200-1200). Forty five percent were helpers in shops the rest were employed in other businesses. The reasons given for job included family support (89%), parent's pressure (5%), fond of work (4%), learning skills (1%) and self support (1%). The majority (56%) was working for more than 7 hours per-day and 79% said that they do not like to work. Majority of the children wanted to study, play, be born in another family and become doctors, engineers and officers.12. (Source: Rawal Medical Journal, online)

There are numerous factors that are responsible for triggering child labour in our country:

Unequal Economic opportunities: the exploitation of less privileged people is a major factor. Socio-economically, there is an elite class that has domination on the resources and that makes the other class to suffer, especially the lower class where families are left with no other option than to send their children to work because of financial constraints.

Large families: The growing population is another issue where one bread earner cannot fulfill the requirements of ten eaters, and thus young children of the family are brought into the working scene in order to compensate.

Domestic Violence: Many children yearly runs away from their homes, for really petty issues, but it is the peer pressure especially of the parents that forces the child to take such irrational step.

Deprivation of Educational facilities: Lack of educational amenities also leaves only one option for such under privileged children that are to end up working.

Provision of low wage service: Children are often used for various services because they are a low paid service and they can be easily oppressed and tyrannize.

For girls, Parental discrimination: The biggest dilemma, where un educated parents takes the female children as the curse and often they are targeted for child labour because they are born girls where as the boy member will be regarded and are not forced to work, this practise is common in rural areas of Pakistan.

Malfunctioning of social monitoring institutions: Though there are many implementations of laws and NGO’s working for the preservation of child rights, but still nothing considerable is observed so far.
Considering the above factors that are playing a pivotal role in bringing child labour to existent, one cannot ignore the side effects it is causing:

Child labour deprives a child of his childhood.
He suffers from physical and mental torture.
He becomes mentally and emotionally mature, before his age,
Child labour creates and perpetuates poverty.
It condemns a child to a life of unskilled and unpaid life.
This gives rise to a whole generation of poor children undercutting wages.

Besides that a child misses out all the fun and amusement that any other regular child would enjoy, it is disheartening to realise that when we enjoy a McDonald burger, a child on the streets of Karachi would be looking for food in the trash cans, when any other child would be going to a school, the same age child somewhere would be preparing to leave for work, when a kid would be enjoying his safe home and his toys, somewhere a child would be sleeping on an unsafe deserted street corner waiting to sleep so that he can play in his dreams because that is the only place where he is able to do all those things which is a dream for him in reality!

It is up to us to add colours of reality to their dreams as John Fitzgerald Kennedy said:
“Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future of any country."


  1. Dearest Sabina,

    Ive read multiple of your writings.And every time I am touched by the issues your write on.

    We need child labour free Pakistan.

    May peace prevail.

    Salman Salim Rajan

  2. child labour is a hot issue is a burning question of the day. your attempt is encouraged.


If you have any doubts, let me know without any hesitation.