‘Say no to child labour’

Updated June 13, 2015

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A scene from the play Nanhay Hath staged at the PNCA on Friday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
A scene from the play Nanhay Hath staged at the PNCA on Friday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and the International Lions Club hosted a play on Friday to mark the World Day Against Child Labour.

About 70 minutes long, the play titled Nanhay Hath (Little Hands) stressed on saying no to child labour and yes to quality education, which is also the theme of the day this year.

World Day Against Child Labour is celebrated around the globe every year on June 12.

Directed and written by Aslam Mughal, who also writes for Pakistan Television (PTV), the story revolved around a boy who earns for the family.

His father, a drug addict, discontinues the boy’s schooling, much against the wishes of the mother, and has him placed at a friend’s workshop, also an addict, to work as a mechanic.

Somewhere in the middle of the play, the father witnesses the death of an orphaned child in the street who sold boiled eggs and drugs. Fearing for a similar fate for his only son, the father then realises the mistake he had made and decides to put his son back to school to complete education.

“The theme is really important this year because it focuses not just on education but also on quality education. The issue of child labour is particularly difficult to address in Pakistan because the exact number of children engaged as child labourers is not known. An estimated figure puts such children to be around 5.7 million,” said Programme Analyst, International Labour Organisation, Belinda Chanda, elaborating on how Pakistan had ratified two conventions against child labour and was in the process of enforcing laws against employment of children as work force.

According to the ILO official, while Punjab and Sindh were working on this issue, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had completely abolished child labour.

Children in Pakistan were mostly employed in carpet weaving, manufacturing of surgical instruments, workshops and for domestic work. Belinda Chanda explained how child labour in Pakistan’s soccer manufacturing industry had been completely abolished.

“The international community suspended businesses with Pakistan until the country stopped employing children as workforce to manufacture soccer balls. Now the international community and conscious consumers support Pakistan for successfully abolishing child labour in the sporting goods industry in Sialkot,” said Belinda Chanda.

Member Environment, Capital Development Authority, Mustafain Kazmi who was among the guests, appreciated the performance and more than that the society continued to debate on the problem of child labour. The cast was made up of both professional and amateur performers. Laiba Ali played the role of the mother.

“The role is as challenging as it comes. Children deserve better lives that can only come from quality education,” said the actress who has been associated with stage dramas for the last five years.

Saeen Amin, who was on stage for the first time, played the role of the boy who sold eggs and drugs.

“This is the demanding part of my character because I have never sold eggs in the streets,” said the 13-year-old with a smile.

President of Islamabad Lions Club Iftikhar Ahmed explained how his NGO adopted schools around the country to help impoverished and under-privileged children complete their education by providing funds that its 4,000 members contributed. The NGO also received funding from their main office in Chicago, US.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2015

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