On World Day against Child Labour, few chotus (child labours) in Pakistan are aware of the importance of this day as they strive to earn their own and family’s bread. It is a fact that several million Pakistani children work for extremely long hours in exchange for little pay at the risk of maltreatment. Instead of being in school, these children are left at mercy of a cruel world where they continue to struggle hard as child labours.
Despite government recognition of laws against child labour and empty-pledges made by politicians to end child labour in the country, these children – our future – is being crushed by the unkind society.
Narrating his sorrowful story, Siddique continues that it was her mother’s dream that he could get a good education but the fact remains that if her children would not work she cannot live an honourable life without begging or compromising with the society.
Like Siddique there are several thousand children living miserable lives by working 10-14 hours a day and earning as little as Rs. 10 per day in the glamorous cities such as Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.
Child rights activists have long urged the government to compile new statistical data on child labourers as there has not been a National Child Labour Survey since 1996 which had found that 3.3 million of the 40 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 in Pakistan were “economically active on a full-time basis”. Coalition against Child Labour Pakistan (CACLP) report claims that there were 21 million children employed as labourers across the country.
ILO 2011 report has warned that an appallingly high number of children are still caught in hazardous work – some 115 million of the world’s 215 million child labourers.
Children working as labour are denied education, which is now a recognized right for every child between the ages of six and 14. The plight of our child-labour demands urgent action by both the government and society to end the exploitation of young children and secure the future of our next generation.