LAHORE: As little Zainab Ansari of Kasur became symbolic for the child sexual abuse in Pakistan, eight-year-old child domestic worker Zohra Shah has attained significance as far as the spread of child domestic labour and the way children are abused is concerned.

It is understood that children who work in households remain invisible and the abuse they face is behind closed doors. It is also understood that most of these children are girls.

The Child Rights Movement, an organised alliance, has been lobbying against violations through legislation, implementation and better systems to protect the rights of children. For this reason a group has been formed called Champions of Change, which comprises 20 children, both girls and boys, for ending child domestic labour.

These ‘champions’ as they are called, have already volunteered from Karachi, Peshawar, Muzaffargarh, Lahore, Mardan etc as well as from government, low cost and private schools and intend to campaign against the problem of children working in households.

The World Day Against Child Labor was marked on June 12 and CRM, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA), Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), ILM Association, and activists from the fields of education, as well as human rights activists came out to support this national campaign through child champions, who also recorded their statements.

Human rights activist Naeem Sadiq spoke about the issue saying that they must raise their voices to eliminate all forms of child labour focusing on CDL. “We must seek amendment to Article 11(3) where all forms of child labour be abolished.”

The plan is to mobilise lawyers and send letters to the prime minister, president and chief ministers written by the child champions; activation in social media; violations highlighted and hotlines activated for action (government and non-governmental) and a website set up for resources and news.

Baela Raza Jamil, CEO of ITA, has been lobbying for a better education system for a long time now. She is currently part of this campaign as well. She encouraged all Pakistanis to join hands for this national cause, and push this movement forward. She said that the campaign for child protection, development and gender rights was promised by the prime minister but they have not been fulfilled.

“We should stand together to stop any more Zohra Shah-type incident from happening,” she said.

People who joined in this campaign include artistes Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, Ameena Sayid, artist Fauzia Minallah, performing artist Nadia Jamil, educationist Rumana Husain, documentary filmmaker Samar Minallah, poet Shadaab Zeest Hashmi, journalist Zofeen T Ebrahim, and educationist Zubeida Mustafa.

Each child champion is being enlisted with formal consent forms from parents and also schools as well.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020