HYDERABAD: The special task force (STF) for Sindh of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday organised a seminar to mark the Universal Children’s Day — observed on Nov 20 every year.
Students of government and private educational institutions, besides activists of child rights organisations, attended the seminar, which was aimed at inculcating awareness among children of criminal assault so that they could protect themselves from such offences.
Participants of the seminar expressed their concern over no headway being made towards legislation on child protection although the draft law was pending enactment. They said that rules for the Child Protection Authority, set up in 2011, had not been framed as yet.
They said that a notification for the setting up of a relevant committee was issued but it could not start implementing laws at provincial level.
HRCP council member Parveen Soomro told the children at the seminar that if they faced sexual harassment, they should not feel insecure or get frightened but should immediately report this to some responsible person.
She said that content about child abuse and educating children on how to protect themselves in the event of such offences should be incorporated in syllabi.
A policeman, Nawab Khan, endorsed the idea pointing out that society had changed.
Another HRCP member, Manzoor Thahim, said that conditions in urban centres appeared relatively better than rural settlements. He said that parents cherished their own aspirations instead of paying attention to what was happening with their children. He said that parents must share their children’s day-to-day experiences in order to prevent communication gap and remain aware of such happenings.
His HRCP colleague, Amjad Palejo, called for regular training of schoolteachers in this regard.
Zahid Thebo from the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) said that a day should be observed at government level on highlighting issues being faced by children.
Sparc also organised a rally of street children outside the local press club to mark the Universal Children’s Day.
Mr Thebo, the provincial manager of the organisation who led the rally, told the participants that children formed around 60 per cent of the country’s population but there was no exclusive ministry/department for this segment of society. He noted that around Rs200 million was allocated in Sindh’s 2016-17 budget for children’s welfare but it had lapsed without being utilised.
He said that social welfare department did not spend a single penny on child protection or welfare.
During the year 2017-18, he added, Rs50m out of the allocated Rs200m was spent on purchasing furniture.
He said that child protection units were to be established across the province under the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act of 2011 but hardly one or two could be set up. Child protection officers were to be hired but only a director general was appointed for the authority, he said.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018