ISLAMABAD: Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi has asked government agencies and civil society organisations to work for the protection of child rights and address their grievances through a well-coordinated effort.

He said child rights were a cross-cutting theme and required concerted efforts by all stakeholders. He said most of the countries had a child ombudsman but in Pakistan there was no such system so the ombudsman secretariat has taken it upon itself to protect child rights.

The ombudsman expressed these views while chairing the first meeting of the National Committee for Children here on Monday. Others who attended the meeting included Shaheen Atiqur Rehman, vice chairperson Bunyad Foundation; Zia Ahmed Awan, founder of Madadgar National Helpline Sindh; Begum Raheela Durrani, former speaker of Balochistan Assembly; Samar Minallah, anthropologist; Afshan Tehseen, chairperson National Commission for Rights of Children, and other human rights activists.

“Unfortunately, violence against children is a major issue in Pakistan. Therefore, we have to collectively safeguard our children’s rights. We have more than 100 million children aged less than 18 years who have no right of vote. Due to our Islamic and social values, parents are always ready to discharge their responsibilities towards their children and make every sacrifice for them,” the ombudsman told the meeting.

The meeting was convened to brief the committee members about the progress on initiatives taken by the office of the ombudsman and to discuss a strategic vision. The plan is aimed to strengthen the mechanism for the protection and promotion of child rights.

The committee was informed that the responsibility to address issues related to children was not limited to any particular agency but required concerted efforts by all stakeholders. The committee is vested with the mandate to monitor the status of child rights in Pakistan, especially those at risk and redress grievances of children through the ombudsman’s grievance commissioner for children.

The committee will also address systemic issues related to child rights. Provincial ombudsmen have also been taken on board to address issues related to child rights at the provincial level.

The meeting reached a consensus to carry out a study on issues concerning street children in Islamabad and for preparation of a particular plan of action to address them. The meeting also reviewed the progress on steps being taken to control violence and cybercrimes against children.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2022

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