International Children’s Day: Deprived and caught in a vicious cycle

Poverty shattering dreams of children forced into labour to support their families.


Mavra Bari/sehrish Wasif June 01, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


Children have dreams they want to fulfil, but circumstances at home often hinder their accomplishment. While the world celebrates International Children’s Day, many in the twin cities are forced to slog to feed their families. Some cling on to their dreams in the face of adversity, while the others just give in to their fate.


Taimoor*, 12, belongs to Bahawalpur and wants to be a doctor. He had studied till class four, but poverty forced him to quit his studies. He is the youngest of eight brothers and two sisters.

For the past three months, he has been working at a factory which manufactures freezers in Dhoke Kala Khan. He works there every day from 1pm to 10pm without a single day off and earns a meagre Rs50 per week. “Every Sunday when I see boys playing cricket near my factory, I long for such freedom and simple joys,” he said.

Taimoor says he works endlessly and his hands are burnt due to constant exposure to sparks from welding tools. “Being the youngest I am the apple of my father’s eye, but he is helpless as he is unable to fulfil the family’s needs. He wants me to support them,” he added. “Becoming a doctor, is no longer possible, I guess,” he admitted sadly.

Faizan*, 14, belongs to Bajaur and is working as a tailor’s assistant in Pirwadhai. His job is to iron clothes, sew buttons and pack them in plastic bags.

The business is owned by his maternal uncle. Except Fridays, he works from 10:30am to 8:30pm for which he gets Rs35 per day. “There is a lot of work and I get really tired by the end of the day. Especially during Eid when most children enjoy their holidays, I have to work overtime,” he said.

He wanted to become a teacher and teach children in Bajaur. Ever since the ongoing militancy in the region forced his family to move, it now seems to be a distant dream.

Still dreaming

Children with their innocence can dream even when they have seen harsh realities of life up close. First graders from the kachi abadi school in F-11 are no different. The school has given these children a glimmer of hope that perhaps dreams can materialise.

Similarly, Azhar Mehmood is apprenticed at a workshop in Sector I-10/3. He wants to become an engineer and earn a degree from a reputable university. “I know my wish cannot be fulfilled but I can still dream,” he said. “I want my younger brothers to go to school, which is why I work day and night to fulfil their dreams,” Mehmood added.

Farzana has a visually-impaired mother and a mentally disabled brother. “If I become a doctor, I’ll be able to care for my mother and brother and others in our community,” she said. Though her intentions are noble, even coming to school every day is a challenge. I had to drop out of school because my brother and mother were furious for not spending all my time doing housework.

Majeed, a third-grader, calculates his illiterate father’s receipts and working for his uncle nets him Rs150 a day. “I know that most probably I will end up working on a similar stall, but I still hope I can become a doctor,” he said.

*Names changed to protect identity

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2012.

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