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“How will my family survive if I do not work and earn money to feed them?” says 12-year-old Hameed when I ask him why he isn’t in school.

Hailing from Taluka, a subdistrict of Khairpur, Sindh, Hameed, along with other children of his age, is a handicraft maker.

The work requires him to start his day much earlier than school going children. He goes to a local store and works till sunset, earning only Rs100 per day making sofa-like chairs known as moorho in Sindhi. They are made using chusquea culeou bamboo, combined with reeds and straw.

An young boy making a colourful chair, known as *moorho* in Sindhi.
An young boy making a colourful chair, known as moorho in Sindhi.

A boy shows the *moorho* that he made.
A boy shows the moorho that he made.

A boy in the process of making a *moorho*.
A boy in the process of making a moorho.

Pakistan has been unsuccessful in providing social protection to its citizens.

The country’s first report on poverty (2015-16) reveals that 39 percent of Pakistanis live under multidimensional poverty and its prevalence is higher in rural areas.

The state’s neglect has given rise to child labour. Children’s social development is compromised and child labour is given precedence over education.

Like Hameed, all the child labourers are from poor households and don’t have any other choice but work at a young age to support their families.

This Sindhi handicraft is the most common form of child labour in Khairpur.
This Sindhi handicraft is the most common form of child labour in Khairpur.

Beautiful mats made by the children on display at a store.
Beautiful mats made by the children on display at a store.

Although child labour has declined globally, it has witnessed an increase in Pakistan. It is estimated that there are 0.88 million children between 10-14 years of age engaged in labour in Sindh.

The agriculture sector in rural areas of Sindh provides various opportunities of informal work.

Most children work at farms to assist their elders in harvesting or handling the byproducts of crops, which includes making products like moorho and other furniture.

There are many safety hazards children are exposed to. They have to go to the fields to gather reeds, straw and bamboo.

It’s dangerous because of the insects, scorpions, snakes, and wild animals in the fields. They collect raw material without any safety equipment, usually with their bare hands, which can cause injuries.

The collection of bamboo, reeds and straw is equally difficult and dangerous.
The collection of bamboo, reeds and straw is equally difficult and dangerous.

A young boy collects natural supplies to make chairs from the fields.
A young boy collects natural supplies to make chairs from the fields.

Despite the hard work, they earn a meagre wage, which is not enough to lift their families out of poverty.

Normally, a moorho is made within a few days and the child gets Rs300 to 400 per chair sold, even though the market price of the product is ten times that amount.

As the vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation continues, these children remain aware of this. But to them, survival is more important.

These children are like any other. They too have dreams for a better future, for seeking an education and having better jobs.

Yet, given the state of affairs of the country and especially Sindh, it’s unlikely that they would be able to live their dreams anytime soon.

The children of Khairpur continue to struggle to make ends meet.
The children of Khairpur continue to struggle to make ends meet.


All photos are by the author


Do you have a story to tell about children suffering due to hard labour or a family you know struggling for survival? Share it with us at blog@dawn.com


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Nadia Agha is an academic and has a PhD in Women's Studies from University of York, England.

She tweets @Aghanadia


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (29) Closed



Bhushan Parimoo Jan 03, 2017 12:59pm

nice to see but painful society fails to make honorable living , meangiful childhood and life to go on as equals

Jalbani Baloch Jan 03, 2017 01:54pm

Sindh is a neglected province and there is no Government, which cares for poor and downtrodden people. The CM and its cabinet is only focused on issues and problems of one mega city Karachi and they do not have time and interest to think on the social well being of the people in the interior of Sindh. The Labor Department of the Government of Sindh is maimed and practically non-existent beyond its own walls. Unfortunately, the exploitation of children of Sindh will continue to multiply at the hands land owners, industrailists, manufacturers, sellers and etc. Thank you Madam for highlighting the plight of poor children.

DK PAMNANI Jan 03, 2017 02:12pm

Painful to read. Anyone there to help them out.

Sadam Hussain Jan 03, 2017 02:19pm

Thank you madam being courageous to make voice for untold stories of interior sindh's children where no one dare to speak bcz it may harm a politicle parties image whose monopoly is destroying the Sindh in every sector.

Habib Jan 03, 2017 03:28pm

At least these kids are better then thousand of kids who are working in auto mechanic shops in cities like Karachi. Child Labor is so COMMON in Pakistan like corruption and other wrong doings.

zaheer Jan 03, 2017 05:06pm

what alternative is the govt providing for their families-- theyre right when they say how would their families survive if they dont work? personally i feel work is healthy if the well being of the child is not jeopardized. England went through the same cycle . How can we forget the little chimney sweeps who were pulled up the chimneys with ropes giving way to the Chimney Sweep Act

Moth Jan 03, 2017 06:26pm

@Sadam Hussain Child labor without any proper and effective economic security network is an option to alleviate hunger and malnourishment.

arif Jan 03, 2017 08:08pm

it is not good for a society.we are very ashamed of our behaviour.

Agha Ata Jan 03, 2017 08:07pm

Education can make a huge difference. If these children are educated, they will make it an industry that Pakistan could be proud of.

Munir Jan 03, 2017 08:50pm

Again a wonderful story madam.. You always pick the real problems of the society..

Ijaz Jan 03, 2017 09:17pm

Utter failure of federal and provincial governments

imran ali Jan 03, 2017 09:33pm

Blame goes to parents that have children they can not feed.and clothe.

Shadi Katyal Jan 03, 2017 11:03pm

First my hat off to the writer Nadia Agha for her efforts to write about this article and show the beauty of such chairs. We keep beating our chests about the poverty and plight of these children but the world overall has failed despite efforts of UN and other international organizations. Grass root development and education is a necessity and most of poor nations lack funds. These children are source of income for some families and thus work hard and yet stay poor

gt Jan 03, 2017 11:33pm

Those chairs look good except they have to change the colors to light one.Childrens will be expert when they grow up and make good living.

UFO Jan 04, 2017 01:53am

@imran ali Sure, only rich should be allowed to have children!!

AHA Jan 04, 2017 02:34am

It is shame and no pride

Aussie Jan 04, 2017 05:18am

child labor. what a country

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Jan 04, 2017 07:34am

An emotionally moving article by Ms.Nadia Agha.A very sad state of affairs of child labour in Sindh.Looking at the dismal picture of children working in the adult world, where no one is doing anything for them. We can at the same time see a positive element in their praiseworthy hard labour which is that they are also the bread winners for their poor parents and contribute in putting food on the table at such a tender age. Only the Sindh Govt.can alleviate their hardship.

Justin Jan 04, 2017 08:02am

Child labour! They should be in school, it is government's responsibility.

Tahseen Jan 04, 2017 08:34am

I would like to know, how many Children are working and supporting their families instead of going to school in KP?

Syed Ahmed Jan 04, 2017 10:37am

@Ijaz well said dear specially know is sindh GOVERNMENT have to tackled this problem

y-fi Jan 04, 2017 10:43am

That's how industrialist and business class is spoiling labors ...

T.M.Wazir Jan 04, 2017 11:24am

These minor working children are not the problems but they are the results of our 70 years leaderships. I do have a feel for them. They should be in schools and play grounds not working with their tender hands. God may help them to survive.

Naena Jan 04, 2017 09:55pm

Wonderful and commendable work. Never knew that I have been using the chairs made from the laborious work of these little angels.

Usman Arshad Jan 05, 2017 11:12am

Due to high illiteracy rate in these areas of country the parents do not bother about the education of their children.we are greedy by nature we always put money ahead of education.. Their should be strict rules to eradicate child labour from country

NKAli Jan 05, 2017 11:20am

Beautiful!!! We must get a couple of Moorho chairs. Salams and a Happy New Year 2017

abdul fatah abro Jan 05, 2017 12:33pm

SINDH:5000 years of cultural era , witness is their soil, where "Sindhi" peoples are living and Moen jo daro (located in larakna sindh) which is the strong proof of their nationality, but at this time no any kind of person who leads them, this is biggest issue in our society, the bad spots are among them are Wadera, saradar and fake leaders, who don't want to get them forward or get in good future development...! "Silent always kills"

abdul fatah abro Jan 05, 2017 12:36pm

This column is a great one, because, in this the reality shown by the author, i really appreciate him for this work. kindly do more...!

Bilal Jan 05, 2017 03:12pm

Ms Agha

Your courageous report is really appreciable. We cannot change all in a sudden but we can highlight all of these. Keep up the good work.