SWAT: As Pakistan marked Universal Children’s Day along with the rest of the world on Sunday, those meant to be honoured were not even aware that such a day is commemorated to remind the world of their importance.
The importance of the day, it appears, dawned only on those who organised and attended a number of events in five-star hotels in the city.
“Child rights?” asks 12-year-old Zahid, almost incredulously. “I don’t know about children’s rights and you’re asking me about a day for children.”
Zahid works at a motorcycle repair workshop in order to take care of his three sisters and mother. Wearing clothes covered with stains of lubricant all over, he is completely unaware of this internationally-recognised day. For him, all that matters is the workshop and the remuneration he is paid at the end of the day for work he does there.
“I have been working at this workshop for four years now. At first, I worked without any payment but now I am paid Rs50 a day,” he says.
While Zahid does not have much of a desire to educate himself, 15-year-old Amjad is unhappy waiting at tables at a hotel in Mingora and wants to carve out a better life for himself.
“I want to study but poverty is a real hurdle in my way. I could only make it to primary school and then had to give up as my father sustained severe injuries in a roadside accident and is now permanently disabled,” Amjad says.
What makes Amjad even unhappier is the treatment he gets from his customers. “Many people abuse us if we are even a little late in delivering their orders. We are also looked down upon by society.”
Mohammad Ali, director of Khpal Kor Foundation, an orphanage in Swat, agreed that destitute children who work are largely disrespected in society and exploited in the labour market. “They are paid less in return for more work, compared to adults. Moreover, many orphan children are forcefully involved in street crimes.”
More in PakistanTribune Take: Veena Malik scandal, a publicity stunt?