ISLAMABAD: Girl Guides from schools across Islamabad were exposed to the reality of child labour at an advocacy seminar at the Pakistan Girl Guides Headquarters on Thursday.
The seminar arranged by the Child Rights Network Pakistan (CRNP) in collaboration with the Pakistan Girl Guides Association (PGGA) and Islamabad Capital Police was an effort to create awareness among students about street children.
There are various factors responsible for street children including conflicts within the family, poor parenting, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, domestic violence, death of parents, urbanisation, famine and refugees which impel them to seek opportunities outside the home environment.
“I think what most of the girls took away from the seminar was the realisation that education is a privilege,” said PGGA National Secretary Tahira Ahmed. Some 280 girls, who attended the seminar, were exposed to the plight of street children.
CRNP Director Outreach Ghayoor Khalid talked about BOLO circles, an endeavour to organise children from marginalised communities through an empowering platform which not only gives them access to basic facilities but also encourages dialogue through educational tools. Children from BOLO circle Sector E-12 performed a small skit on domestic abuse.
Street children played the role of a husband and wife to depict maltreatment of domestic workers. To the audience’s amusement, the rosy-cheeked leading lady struggled in her role as a mother, using all her strength to pick up the baby played by another child not much younger than herself. The stage performance was followed by a traditional dance which ellicited a round of applause as the young actors imparted lessons of empathy to their peers.
“Without education, we cannot build our nation,” a bright-eyed senior guide chimed, during a presentation by Hajra Ahmed, director of Khaldunia High School on the importance of incorporating social issues in the school curriculum to inculcate awareness among the students.
Hajra also spoke about the business model of private schools and the lack of patriotism in most schoolchildren. UNICEF Education Specialist Sonia Spencer reinforced this encouragement for life-based skills, asserting the need for risk reduction and management to be a part of the education system.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for the development of girl guides as responsible citizens,” stated PGGA National Commissioner Mrs Farhan Azeem.
“A child’s right to education cannot be treated in isolation,” said Mrs Azeem.
The government’s lack of commitment to education is alarming, with outdated figures on child labour based on a survey carried out in 1996, it has shown little concern for over 23 million out-of-school children, according to Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child.
Ministry of Education Joint Education Adviser TM Qureshi revealed that the budget allocated for education was reduced from 2 to 1.8 per cent for the year 2012-2013, making it a shameful one-tenth of the government’ superfluous defence budget.
The event was held to commemorate the World International Day against Child Labour to educate children about their rights and responsibilities towards their family and nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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