LAHORE: The Child Rights Movement (CRM) invited over 400 children on Tuesday at Ali Auditorium to mark the passage of 25 years since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The children were given the opportunity to talk about, debate and understand many pertinent issues including child labour and corporal punishment on the occasion. They also presented a charter of demands calling for the establishment of an autonomous Punjab Child Rights Commission, extension of the reach of Child Protection and Welfare Bureau province-wide, effective legislation to curb child labour and quick passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill.
“We also danced on our favourite songs,” Punjab Government High School student Noreen Fatima said. She said she had enjoyed dancing at the event the most.
Omair Khan from Model High School found a debate on corporal punishment engaging. He said parents often slapped children to discipline them. “I don’t think it works. It’s counterproductive as it only makes one more obstinate,” Khan said.
CRM spokesperson Tanveer Jahan said the ratification represented a pledge to leave no stone unturned to safeguard children’s rights enshrined in the convention. She said child protection, education and health had become a provincial subject following the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. She said 2.9 million children were out of school across the Punjab.
Iftikhar Mubarak of Plan International said that UNCRC made it binding on the state to protect children. Mubarak spoke regarding the need for an autonomous body dedicated to securing children’s rights. He also expressed concern over the sluggish response to bills related to children’s rights and the “numbness” of policy makers. He also demanded a speedy and accountable response from relevant state departments.
Childcare Foundation chairperson Yasmeen Zaki said a child was a parent’s most precious possession. “Ensuring a proper, stable and happy childhood for children is one of the most important tasks we have to perform,” she said.
Riaz from the Law Department committed himself to working on a child rights bill in coordination with the CRM. He said that government should uphold its commitment to address child rights issue at the national and provincial levels especially due to its international commitments.
Child Commissioner Nasreen Farooq spoke about the progress made by the Child Commissioner’s Office. She urged government departments to institute child-friendly procedures. She said working children should be taught in public schools in the evening. Farooq also spoke regarding the issue of children working in hazardous conditions. She sad this was something that had to be remedied by employers. She also stressed the need for registering births to allow the state to formulate effective development initiatives.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.