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Documentary depicts a child’s dream

December 15, 2011

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PESHAWAR, Dec 15: Human rights activist Samar Minallah on Thursday launched her new documentary, 'I have a dream' to raise voice against domestic child labour for corrective measures by the society.

Child workers shown in the documentary expressed an overwhelming desire to be educated but regretted that the abject poverty they were born in forced them into helping other family members for livelihood by working in people's houses at a tender age instead of going to schools.

Parents of many of them, too, intensely wanted to see their children get education and lead a better life than them but felt depressed and helpless in view of poor financial conditions.

The documentary also highlighted plight of the children working at people's houses in the country.

At the documentary launching ceremony organised at the Peshawar Press Club in collaboration with the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), speakers demanded legislation by the provincial government for a ban on domestic child labour saying the move will force people into sending their children to schools instead of work.

They also urged the government, media and civil society organisations to get together for better public awareness of domestic child labour and said this would help change people's perceptions about engaging children of school going age for work.Director labour department Irfanullah Marwat, however, opposed 'sudden' ban on domestic child labour and said the restriction should be enforced in stages so that the relevant families didn't suffer.

Executive director Sparc Arshad Mahmood told participants that at least 13 children had died of torture by their employers during the current month in the country, while many of such cases had gone unreported.

He said after the approval of 18th constitutional amendment, Article 25-A made it compulsory for children to get education but the provinces needed to legislate on it for necessary action. He said employers of child domestic workers (CDWs) were mostly well-educated but many of them didn't treat such children compassionately.

Mr Arshad said an assessment of child domestic labour by Sparc in five major cities in 2004 with the technical assistance of the International Labour Organisation showed prevalence rate of 26 per cent in the country, adding that every fourth house in large urban areas of Pakistan is employing a CDW.

Regretting that legal framework in Pakistan doesn't contain separate specific laws for preventing and eliminating child domestic labour, he said the 2004 assessment done in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi indicated a higher domestic labour prevalence among girls (68 per cent).

“Most of child domestic workers i.e. 63.3 per cent are in the age group of 10-14 years, while 21.7 per cent are in the age bracket of 15-18 years and 15 per cent in the group of 5-9 years. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have the biggest number of such boys,” he said.

The Sparc chief said the biggest number of girls involved in domestic child labour was reported in Islamabad followed by Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, adding that 36.8 per cent boys and 51.2 per cent girls of the lot were illiterate.Research officer Sparc Amina Sarwar said a significant proportion of both boys and girls had never attended schools, adding that educational qualifications of boys were better than those of girls, while no domestic worker had received education beyond secondary level.