Safeguarding rights: For the children, by the children

Committee of 25 children prepares child-rights agenda outlining human rights problems from the children's perspective.

Express December 17, 2010

KARACHI: A committee of 25 children has prepared a child-rights agenda which outlines human rights problems from their perspective with a special focus on those less privileged.

This child committee has been formed by AGHS Child Rights Unit — a Lahore-based human rights and legal aid organisation — and comprises street children and other underprivileged ones living in shelter homes in Karachi.

To voice their ideas, the committee visited the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday and held a press conference aimed at highlighting the children’s agenda to draw the attention of the government to their concerns, urging it to take action. The important issues covered in the ‘things-to-do’ list dealt with education, rights of children with disabilities, alternative care for children living in institutions and child labour.

The agenda was presented to Sharmila Farooqi, the information adviser to the chief minister, by Kanza and Arsalan from SOS Village.

The meeting was an exercise to disseminate the agenda at the national level. Last year, it was presented in the provincial and national assemblies, said Qudsia Majid, the programme officer at the Child Rights Unit.

Talking to The Express Tribune, AGHS project coordinator Saba Sheikh said their organisation has been engaged particularly in the promotion and protection of children’s rights. It actively campaigned for Pakistan’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in order to give a central focus to the rights of the child, she added.

Speaking at the event, Farooqui reiterated the government’s commitment to ensure that the rights of children are safeguarded. She appealed for public-private partnerships to achieve the task. She affirmed that the government would implement the National Plan of Action for Children focusing on child education, health and protection. “Pakistan has the distinction of being one of the six initiator countries of the World Summit for Children 1990,” she informed the participants of the press conference.

There are about eight million children suffering from malnutrition in Pakistan and about 23 million children in the country have never been to school. “The youth literacy rate is only 58 per cent —­ among the lowest in the world,” she added.

Tackling sexual abuse is a major challenge as over 10,000 children below the age of 15 are living on the streets and on the footpaths of Karachi alone, she added.

The adviser urged the AGHS Child Rights Unit to extend their working to the res of Sindh so that children living in villages also get juvenile justice and alternative care if they have no family support. “Article 25A has been amended to provide compulsory and free education for the children,” she said.

Farooqui emphasised that the establishment of a Child Rights Protection Bureau is essential to safeguard children’s rights. A desk for underprivileged children already exists at the office of the provincial ombudsman, Sindh and there is another at the women’s police station in Karachi.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2010.


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