SPARC NEWS

NCSW in Collaboration with SPARC Conducts Round Table Conference on “Policy Framework for Social Welfare of Children in ICT”

On 20th, March, 2017 the National Council for Social Welfare (NCSW) in collaboration with Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) conducted a roundtable conference entitled “Policy Framework for Social Welfare of Children in ICT”. The conference was conducted in order to identify the problems children face in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and to discuss possible solutions and a policy framework for the social welfare of children in the capital.

Dr Nadeem Shafiq Malik, Chairman, NCSW chaired the workshop while Hasnaat Ahmed, Chairman, Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) was the Chief Guest. Patron Chief of Pakistan Sweet Homes Zamrud Khan, Sadia Hussain Executive Director of SPARC, Representatives of NGOs, Civil Society, Students and officials of CA&DD, attended the conference.

The conference stressed on issues affecting hundreds of street children in the capital city who are likely to go unnoticed in the on-going national census and will consequently have their basic needs of shelter, health and education go unnoticed. The high number of unvaccinated children under the age of five was highlighted, along with the rising menace of child trafficking and drug abuse. Poor facilities in public schools including high student-teacher ratios and the prevalence of corporal punishment were also discussed.

Participants of the roundtable conference demanded that the government pass all pending legislations on child rights, child labour and protection, and ensure effective implementation of existing laws. The need for a dedicated shelter for violence struck children was also raised. The Chairperson for NCSW said that the recommendations shared on this occasion will be included in the policy framework for child rights with a particular focus on vulnerable children.

SPARC Celebrates Pakistan Day on 23rd March (Haripur)

In light of Pakistan Day celebrations, a function was organized by SPARC in Haripur on 23rd, March. The event was held under the project “Learning is Fun” at GGPS Gheba District Haripur on account of Pakistan Day. The guests for the function on Pakistan Day included prominent individuals including; Assistant Commissioner (Haripur), DEO Female Shameem Akhtar, SDEO Female, and Miss Yasmeen Aziz, ADEO Haripur Shagufta Aziz.

The function started with recitation of verses from the Holy Quran, during the function students presented different performances like March past, tableau, speeches and different questions were asked from the students about the 23rd March and history of Pakistan.

Training of Teachers on the Use of Multi-grade/ Supplementary Teaching Guide

On March, 14th SPARC conducted a day long training session of 20 male and female teachers of Haripur primary schools on use of multi-grade/supplementary teaching guide. Three officials from district education department also attended and observed the sessions.

This Resource Guide developed by SPARC contains various model lessons for teachers. Each lesson has an integration of different subject areas in the curriculum that will enable teachers to facilitate an active and joyful way of teaching and learning. Variety of teaching techniques in the guide will help inspire teachers to further design creative lessons effectively.  Model lessons of each subject are included in this guide and each lesson covers different topics of under various subjects.

Another training of teachers from Abbottabad district will also be held during the upcoming month.

Orientation for Interns from National Commission on Social Welfare (NCSW)

A group of interns led by NCSW Deputy Director Events Ms. Samina Batool visited SPARC Islamabad on March 14. NCSW arranged the visit to familiarize its interns on the workings of the development sector. The Program Development Manager gave a detailed presentation to the visitors on SPARC’s work over the years with specific focus to child rights; juvenile justice, child and bonded labor and violence against children including street children and early child marriages. A documentary on plight of child domestic labor – ‘I have a Dream’ was also shown to the guests which received a positive feedback and the young interns showed active interest in working for child rights.

 

Truck Art Training Camp for Islamabad Children

SPARC in collaboration with Farda Productions and Phool Patti organized a three day workshop on “Truck Art”. The purpose of this workshop was to introduce, share, guide and train individuals about this unique art. Phool Patti uses this medium to promote messages of peace and cultural fusion around the world and the like was accomplished in Islamabad. The participants were energetic and came up with innovative ideas to make the capital city more beautiful with this vibrant form of art.

Advocacy Session on Immunization with Local Bodies Representatives in Karachi

On behalf of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and SPARC, Sindh Expanded Programme on Immunization held an Advocacy Session to discuss the challenges of low immunization coverage in Sindh with a special focus on Karachi. The workshop included Town Nazims and was held on 30th March in Karachi.  The aim of the workshop was to provide these local body representatives with the latest information on challenges related to low immunization coverage in the Sindh.

Immunization is one of the most important advances in public health and it has saved more lives in the world than any other health intervention. Nevertheless, due to sub optimal performance of the immunization program, vaccine-preventable diseases still result in significant costs to individuals and the society in Pakistan. Almost three million children miss out on a full course of routine childhood immunizations every year in Pakistan, leaving them vulnerable to life-threatening diseases. Immunization coverage rates across the country vary widely, with some districts seeing very few children protected against diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles and pneumonia.

It was expressed with enthusiasm that the voice of local representatives would bring much-needed attention to this critical opportunity to improve the health and success of children and families across the country.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

“Girls not Brides” Reacts to Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 in Bangladesh

On 1st, March, 2017 “Girls not Brides Bangladesh” held a press conference in response to the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 passed by the Bangladesh Parliament. The Act contains a debatable provision allowing marriage for girls under 18 in “special cases” or for “the greater good of the adolescent”. It does not define what these special cases might be.The Act does not define what types of “special cases” make child marriage acceptable. The organization believes that this law could be widely abused and its provisions imply that there is effective minimum age on marriage in Bangladesh.

The conference called for the government to define “special cases” in order to prevent the new law from being abused and girls being forced to marry as children. The press conference was organised by Girls Not Brides Bangladesh in collaboration with Social Action Committee, Child Rights Advocacy and Jaago Foundation. Representatives from many print and electronic media were in attendance, as well as representatives from over 150 organisations.

Girls Not Brides Bangladesh outlined their plan of action to counter the new Act. They announced:

  • Sending a Memorandum to the President of Bangladesh asking him not to sign the bill.
  • Undertaking legal procedures to deal with this issue in the courts.
  • Leveraging the upcoming International Women’s Day celebrations (8 March) by youth and civil society, to draw attention to the issue.

Several Girls Not Brides members spoke at the press conference, reiterating their commitment to addressing child marriage in Bangladesh. These include: National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, ManusherJonno Foundation (MJF), Plan International Bangladesh, Save the Children, Terre Des Hommes Netherlands, Bangladesh NariProgoti Sangha (BNPS) and BRAC.

Syria Facing Unprecedented Children’s Mental Health Crisis

“Invisible Wounds” an extensive study conducted by Save the Children revealed unprecedented levels of mental health crises in children in war-torn Syria. The six year long war, despite wreaking havoc on the physical well being of the population has brought an onslaught of devastating psychological impact on the children. More than 450 children and adults were interviewed from seven regions in Syria. The testimonies reveal cases of increased self-harm, suicide attempts bedwetting, speech problems and aggressive or withdrawn behaviour. It was reported that all children were under constant psychological stress due to bombing and shelling, while two-thirds of the children had either lost a loved one, had their house bombed or shelled or had been injured. 71% of interviewees said that children were increasingly suffering from frequent bedwetting and "involuntary urination" - symptoms of toxic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 48% of adults said they had seen children who had lost their ability to speak or begun to suffer from speech impediments since the war began. Nearly half of those interviewed said children "regularly or always have feelings of grief or extreme sadness. There is thus an urgent need for right support and early interventions to help these children recover from their traumatic experiences to ensure that their futures can be salvaged.

Report on Abysmal Treatment of Refugee Children in Europe Revealed

The Council of Europe in a damning report condemned the treatment of child refugees living in detention centres. It stated that the prevalent system allows sexual and physical abuse of children in the overcrowded detention centres, where they are often separated from their families.

According to the report about 30% of asylum seekers arriving in Europe in the last two years were children and the number of unaccompanied children who applied for asylum in the European Union reached 96,465 in 2015 and they accounted for almost a quarter of all asylum applicants under 18 years of age. Special representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, Tomáš Boček said that the system was incapable of handling increasing numbers, with a significant proportion not even being registered. In addition these children are found susceptible to slavery, forced marriages and police brutality. It is feared that if state initiated effective responses are not put in place the exploitation of refugee children will continue unabated, all the while increasing their risk of getting radicalized and criminalized.

NATIONAL NEWS

Child Trafficking in Sindh: Two Children Recovered from Kidnappers

On 5th, March, 2017 two children aged 7 months and 9 years, respectively were kidnapped by a woman at the village of NabiBakshGopang, Sindh. After learning of the incident the SPARC and CRM Sindh team led by Mr. Kashif Bajeer got in touch with the local police. Due to the efforts of the police the two children were recovered on 6th, March, 2017 during a raid at 05:00 am PST. The SPARC team reunited the children with their family at the Pinjari Police Station. Ambreen Baloch from Child Protection Unit, Hyderabad also accompanied the SPARC team and provided support in the matter.
           
Child trafficking has been a pressing issue across Pakistan for a number of years, however, little has been done to unearth the individuals and group of people involved in trafficking children. This is a one of a kind incident where the two minor children were quickly recovered after being kidnapped.

Forced Marriageof Underage Girls in Larkana: Five People Arrested

SPARC recently investigated a case of alleged forced marriage of an underage girl. SPARC has learned that a 9 year old girl was to be married off to a 20 year old boy, along with another underage girl who was married off to a 22 year old boy as Vani.  This was decided by a jirga (elite gathering of influential individuals) under the leadership of a local landlord. The two girls were sisters of a boy who was declared Karo (charged with fornication). As a result, his sisters were to be married off forcibly (Sang Chatti) to pay for the crime (Vani).

Child Protection Unit and Child Right Committee Larkana referred the case to SPARC’s Child rights desk at the (SSP office) and concerned Police Station. CRM Sindh and SPARC, led by child rights activist Kashif Bajeer coordinated with the local police to follow-up on the case. As a result of their efforts an FIR was lodged under section 310 A, of Pakistan Penal Code and section 3, 4, and 5 of Early Marriages Restraint Act were also invoked. The father of the grooms, one groom, two brothers of grooms and one witness of the forced marriage was arrested.

It’s worth mentioning here that SPARC with the collaboration of Sindh police has setup child protection desks in police stations across Sindh to help investigate cases of child rights abuse.

Two More Cases of Torture of Child Domestic Maids Surface

On March 17th two people were arrested by the Islamabad police on Saturday after it was revealed that a minor girl working as a maid in their house was subjected to torture on a daily basis and threatened to be killed. Police was informed by a neighbor that 12-year-old maid had been beaten by the owner of the house and his sister. 

A First Information Report (FIR) was registered at Golra police station after recording a statement of the child, followed by the arrests. According to the victim, her parents had agreed to send her to do the housework for a monthly salary but the money was always kept by them and never spent on her. The victim revealed that a day before the arrest, she overheard her employer’s wife telling another house servant that she wanted to pour hot water the 12-year-old and kill her. Fear drove the girl to the neighbor’s house where she informed him about her ordeal, leading to the arrests.

In a similar case of torture in Multan, a child housemaid ran away from her workplace and found refuge in a vocational institute in the Shalimar Colony area of Multan. The 10-year-old maid allegedly worked at Kasbah Union Council Chairman’s house and was beaten up regularly. Upon finding the girl at their vocational institute, the women running the centre informed the area's counselor who told these women to not let the child out of their sight until either her parents arrive to collect her or her employer’s promise to not resort to violence again.