By Riaz Ali Toori
Be safe and protected from harm
Be free from all stress and alarm
Innocence of a child is a marvelous thing
It’s their life’s early spring
Compared to us children see life quite differently
Of the guilt of corruption they are totally free
Children are God’s blessings and every nation’s treasure. It’s our responsibility to keep this treasure safe and utilize it in the best way by changing them into wise guardians of their nation. So each and every child must be protected from the malaise of “Child labour” to let him enjoy his youth, full of divine innocence.
Child labour is a problem of immense social and economic proportions around the globe. It is a curse upon the God-gifted little ones on earth. Millions of children are stuck in absolutely intolerable situations and many more are forced by necessity to work at too young an age, robbed of both their childhoods and future.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines it as:
1. When a child is working during an early age
2. He overworks or gives overtime to labour
3. He works due to psychologically, socially and materialistic pressure.
According to figures and facts, 218 million children are being crushed in the mill of labour. 1 in 7 children around the world is a child laborer. 22% of these work in the service industry-retail, restaurants and hotels, community and social services. 69% do odd jobs in agriculture-hunting, fishing and only 9% work in mines and public utilities. History of child labour can be traced to some dark realms of Industrialization. But a more detailed study of this heinous and shameful practice can reveal that child labour was there, much before industrialization in various forms.
The dawn of 1780 and 1840’s witnessed a massive increase in child exploitation. It was very common to find children working in factories during the industrial revolution. The worst forms of child exploitation include military use of children, child trafficking, organized begging and child prostitution etc.
Recently the Government of Pakistan has carried out a series of consultation of tripartite partners and stakeholders (Labour Department, Trade Unions and NGOs) in all the provinces. The objective was to identify the occupations and categories of work which may be considered as hazardous under the provisions of ILO convention 182. A national consensus list of occupations was identified as follows:
1. Work with live electrical wires over 50V
2. Work on glass and metal furnaces
3. Stone crushing
4. Manufacture and sale of fireworks explosives
5. Carpet weaving
6. Work in the cloth printing, dyeing and finishing sections
One can imagine how the nation’s building stones are mercilessly deprived of the pleasures of life. Ignorance has benumbed their power of differentiating between right and wrong. Their innocent minds are unable to gauge the extent of damage they are causing to themselves. They are little lambs who need guidance and protection of a wise shepherd to keep them on the right path. As Carol Ballmy states:
“When the rights and the lives of the children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses”
Child slavery is in fact an outcome of multiple socio-economic factors that could be poverty, lack of opportunities, high rate of population growth, unemployment, unequal distribution of wealth, orthodox norms etc.
Elimination of poverty, free and compulsory education and strict implementation of labour laws can go a long way in solving the problem of child labour. Awareness must be raised and attention of the parents ought to be diverted to the education of their children.
Orphans and other deserving children must be helped financially on a prolonged basis. The politico-socio-economic system of the country needs to be reshaped properly. A different approach is needed for each form of child slavery.
There is a growing body of opinion that national and international efforts must be focused sharply on the most abusive forms of child labour granting them first concern and priority. The agreement that has been approved by ILO to eradicate subjugation of children must be given importance. Unless we recognize and realize this issue we would not be able to move ahead on the road to prosperity.
(Written by Riaz Ali Toori, A human rights activist from Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Parachinar where rights of Children are bitterly abused and violated by ongoing terrorism and blockade of all roads connecting it with the rest of the world)