Rights campaigners have demanded increased budgetary allocations for child welfare and girls education for the fiscal year 2014-15 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Khurram Jamal Shahid, local coordinator for the Child Rights Movement (CRM), said the government should allocate more resources for improving maternal health and the survival rates of newborns.
“There is a need to strengthen routine immunisation with more vaccinators and a strong monitoring and accountability system, especially in far-off areas.
“The AJK government should also make allocations for increasing the number of lady health workers (LHWs) and community midwives in order to lower maternal and neonatal mortality rates. It is also necessary that LHWs have enough medical supplies available,” Shahid said.
He said the state failed to meet the Millennium Development Goal on achieving gender parity in education by 2005 and is still off track, as only 35 per cent of enrolled students are girls.
There are 4,188 primary schools in AJK, only 1,866 of which are for girls. Similarly, of the state’s 14,972 primary school teachers, only 6,903 are women.
Khurram Jamal Shahid said the government should allocate funds specifically to achieve gender parity in primary education in its 2014-15 education budget.
“More resources should be allocated for recruiting female teachers, building schools for girls and introducing incentives for girls in areas where female enrolment is still poor.”
Shahid said the cabinet approved the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Child Protection Policy in 2011 but it has yet to be enacted.
He also recommended that the government establish child protection units in each district with trained human resources and an effective response and referral mechanism to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
The CRM also suggested that the AJK government allocate funds for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Act. Under the act, every child in contact with the law is entitled to free legal aid at state expense. However, no allocation has been made for this, resulting in no child being able to avail paid-for legal aid.
Similarly, budgetary allocations are also required for the appointment of probation officers in districts and establishment of at least one juvenile detention centre in AJK. “The appointment of probation officers will not only help reduce the number of juvenile offenders, but also the number of first-time offenders,” he added.
CRM is a coalition of more than 170 organisations from across Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2014.