ISLAMABAD: Children are being considered as future of nations and for security of the future it is imperative to protect the rights of children and provide them better atmosphere for grooming through better education, health and other facilities. The state of children in Pakistan in general and in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) particular is not congenial that deprives the future generation from opportunities to groom by taking better education.
Recently Governor, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Masood Kausar announced Child Protection Policy for FATA under which the Government will make all out efforts to eliminate all forms of child labour, which is likely to play a vital role. It is no doubt a good omen and good move towards right direction, but it needs strong political will to implement the policy in its true spectrum.
FATA is the country’s first administrative unit to launch the policy to ensure the child protection against all forms of violence, abuse, discrimination, neglect and exploitation. Under the policy, the FATA Social Welfare Department will establish social welfare complex in all tribal agencies. Five child protection centers in Safi tehsil of Mohmand Agency have already been established in 2010 and such facilities will also be set up at tehsil level of all FATA agencies for welfare of children. In addition to it, Fata Commission for the Protection and Welfare of Children will also be constituted to ensure effective supervision and coordination of child rights and protection activities.
Tribal society is being considered a conservative society with limited job opportunities and other economic activities for its people and many parents prefer their children to work at home and assist them at work to earn more for family. Some parents raise their children from an early age without taking into account the wishes of the children as well as perspectives of child development in order to support family interests.
This is reason that these children fail to learn how to make decisions on their own and they do not know what kind of rights they have as a child. Parents do not take safety and health concerns about child labour seriously, because they themselves are often ignorant and are lacking awareness regarding this important issue.
Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child States that Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work which is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health. But in Pakistan due to many reasons this is not being taken into account by the families of the children and the Government – responsible to ensure child rights protection and provide them their due right to education, health and other facilities – is not making any efforts to eliminate child labour.
Situation in FATA was never favorable for child population of the area as due to poverty, lack of educational facilities and least economic opportunities people use to send their children on work from very young age to support families.
According to a survey conducted by Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in FATA, children of 5-14 years of age were being found to be involved in child labor. 17.1% of child population from 5 to 14 years age is child laborers out of which 16.4% are male and 18.1% are female. Among them 5.1% are working outside their households and only 1.7% of them are being paid for their work. The majority of working children reside in rural households (17.2%) and only 5.7% of children work in urban areas. 14.2% of children (aged 5-14 years) attend school.
Child labour deprives children of their childhood and is an obstacle to their physical, emotional and social development. Children involved in the worst forms of child labour suffer majority physical and psychological problems. The physical consequences may be the result of involvement in hazardous work, physical abuse, lack of proper nutrition, risky sexual behavior and lack of proper medical care. At the same time children are subjected to negative reactions from other people, such as exclusion, stigmatization and labeling (beggars, vagrants or miscreants).
The draft of the recently announced child protection policy further stated, apart from mass awareness for child protection, shelters would also be provided for disowned, kidnapped and orphan children besides rehabilitation services for victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts.
FATA Secretariat will make efforts for enhancing coordination between the agency administration and NADRA for achieving universal child birth registration under a pilot programme in FATA.
In order to ensure the effective implementation of measures for child protection, funds would be required. Therefore, Federal Government and local administration should ensure the availability of funds for implementation on this policy.