Closing Ceremony of SPARC & KYI Project

On 26th, December, 2016 the closing ceremony for a project by SPARC and KYI (Karachi Youth Initiative) took place at the University of Karachi.

The Project (Engaging the Youth of Karachi University through Leadership Skills) entailed training students of the University of Karachi to enhance their leadership skills via a series of practical trainings on teamwork, social mobilization, advocacy, blogging, podcasting, child rights, etc. The project also included guest lectures delivered by well-known social figures, as well as exposure visits to mosques, churches and temples, along with a sports and photography competition. During the project, Youth Rights Clubs (YRCs) were formed for making students self-sufficient in promoting their ideas and initiatives, especially ones tied to promoting peace in the society. Furthermore, the YRCs also made a Youth Charter of Demand to be presented to the Provincial Government and local elected representatives.

An exclusive documentary, 'My City, My Dream' based on the endeavors of SPARC, KYI and students of the University of Karachi was screened at the event.

The Chief Guest and Guests of Honor at the ceremony included; Senator Nihal Hashmi, Dr Shereen Mustafa (Secretary Social Welfare) and Dr Monis Ahmed (Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi).

Cricket Tournament Conducted by SPARC & KYI

A series of cricket matches were organized by SPARC and KYI at the University of Karachi at Valika Ground on 3rd December, 2016. Members from SPARC’s newly-formed Youth Rights Clubs (YRCs) participated in the match. Four different teams were made by the YRCs which played a six over match with each team. The two teams with the most points YRC 1 (Criminology Department) and YRC 2 (Criminology Department) faced off in the final on 8th December, 2016.

Before this final event, league matches were played between 4 teams from Sociology, Psychology, and Criminology Departments, on 3rd, December, 2016. The matches started at noon and continued till evening. Each match was 6 overs long.

The two teams, Crime Fighters and Crime Tigers, reached the final. A 10 over final match of the cricket tournament was played on 8th, December, 2016. Playing first, Crime Tigers gave a target of 83 in 10 overs, which Crime Fighters successfully chased in less than 9 overs.

Chief Guest Mr Faizan Baqar, who is a professional cricketer and the youngest PCB Level II coach, presented trophies to the winning team, runner-up, and the Man of the Match (Muhammad Abbas). He also distributed cricket kits among the players.

Photography Competition Conducted by SPARC & KYI

A photography competition event was organized at the Gymnasium of University of Karachi. The participants included Youth Rights Clubs from 3 departments, i.e. Criminology, Sociology, and Psychology. There were 6 groups in total, and the event was an intragroup competition. The participants were very enthusiastic and came earlier than the designated time to post their art work.

The guests and judges were greatly impressed by the themes of youth leadership for promoting peaceful democratic values in society. The seasoned press photographer Mr Asif Jiaja, serving as the judge, encouraged the youth in his short speech to use their creativity for exhibiting art work on the theme of leadership for social engineering. He advised to get inspiration from professionals who’re approachable on social media. The shields were given to the winners and participants before refreshments served at the end.

SPARC Conducts Seminar on Gender Mainstreaming in Open & Distance Learning in Collaboration with Capital University of Science & Technology

On 8th, Dec, 2016 SPARC in collaboration with Capital University of Science and Technology conducted a seminar on Gender Mainstreaming in Open and Distance Learning. The seminar was held to celebrate 16 days of activism, and to raise awareness among the youth regarding different implications for gender equality, and gender based violence for planned policy action, including legislation, and educational programmes, as well as to promote active participation of women and girls in open and distant learning. Another major point of discussion during the seminar was early and forced child marriages, and its implications, especially for the girl child.

Lisa Moreau, (First Secretary, (Development), Canadian High Commission) was the Chief Guest of the event, while other Guests of Honor included; Dr Farhat Sheikh (Gender Advisor, Canadian International Development Agency), Prof. Dr. Mohammad Mansoor Ahmed (Vice Chancellor Capital University of Science and Technology), and Dr.  Haroona Jatoi (Professor Gender Education).

Sadia Hussain (Executive Director of SPARC) started the seminar with an opening note and elaborated upon the need for gender equality in open and distant learning to promote women empowerment, and to counter socio-economic inequality plaguing girls and women in Pakistan.
Prof. Dr. Haroona Jatoi presented a situation analysis on early and forced child marriages and its implications on girls. Frances Ferreira, (Senior Advisor Gender, Commonwealth of Learning), contributed to the discussion via video message in which she talked about the need for gender equality as an integral element for policies, plans, and programmes.

Dr. Abdul Baseer Qazi, Assistant Professor, CUST, applauded the efforts of SPARC for promoting gender equality, and women empowerment through their various projects, as well as the special role that SPARC has been playing for the promotion of child rights over the past many years.
The Vice Chancellor of Capital University, Prof. Dr. Mohammad Mansoor ended the seminar with concluding remarks and a vote of thanks to all participants the Chief Guest and other Guests of Honor.

Training on Self Help Groups on Social Mobilization and Advocacy Skills Conducted by SPARC in Tandu Alla Yar

SPARC conducted a 2 day training on social mobilization and advocacy techniques in Tandu Alla Yar. The purpose of the training was to enhance the capacities of women leaders in such a way that they can convince various decision makers in claiming their rights, and improving their household livelihood. They were guided to realize about their self-strengths and local available resources as well as the importance of working in teams. The essence of volunteerism was discussed in explaining the roles and responsibilities of a self-help group.

Participants identified their potential partners and alliances. Various participatory activities were used to discuss the process of social mobilization in respective community. They also highlighted the prevailing issues and interventions needed to improve the condition by using a gap model technique. Participants were involved in hands on activities while addressing the ways of effective advocacy work. They were tasked to convince various kinds of audience/decision makers such as a local politician, government official, minister, donor, local community members. The trainers further shared ways of advocacy presentation.

Role Plays, Forum Theater, Radio Shows, and many other interesting activities were used to explain the topics. Participants prepared plans for futures advocacy initiatives. An appraisal form, including 29 indicators was shared as follow-up of the training. The SHG appraisal form is basically a plan for future advocacy work. Each indicators needs to be focused when it comes to the effectiveness of the SHG.


SPARC Commemorates the Martyrs of APS Attack

To commemorate the martyrs of Army Public School, Peshawar, SPARC held candlelight vigils in Karachi and Peshawar, as well as a demonstration outside Islamabad Press Club to urge the government to take concrete steps to ensure safe learning spaces across the country.

20 street children of CSC in Peshawar participated in a candlelight vigil in memory of APS martyrs. Another vigil was organized at the University of Karachi, where students from the university, and SPARC representatives lighted candles to paid homage to the 141 people (including 132 school children) who were slain during a brutal terrorist attack On 16th, December, 2014 at Army Public School.

Representatives of SPARC and school children demonstrated outside Islamabad Press Club to highlight the inadequate security measures across learning institutes in Pakistan. The demonstrators chanted slogans against terrorism and urged the government to take measures for ensuring the safety of students across the country. One of the reasons for this demand was in light of the Bacha Khan University attack on 20th, January, 2016, which was a somewhat repeat of the APS carnage. Furthermore, according to various estimates Pakistan has the highest number of attacks on places of learning institutes in the world, with an estimated 838 attacks or more since 2009.

SPARC Conducts Exposure Visits for Teachers from Abbottabad and Haripur

SPARC conducted exposure visits for female and male teachers from selected schools of Abbottabad and Haripur. 16 Female teachers from 15 GGPS of Abbottabad and 35 male Teachers participated in three exposure visits.

Teachers praised SPARC’s efforts for making public schools more efficient. SPARC’s intervention in schools in different districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has included, provision of facilities, PTC and Teachers trainings, quiz and spelling competitions, etc. The interventions have resulted in increased student attendance, end to corporal punishment, increased learning outcomes, and a steady rise in student enrolment.

Report on Child Specific Resource Allocation in Sindh Budget Released by SPARC & CRM Sindh

On 29th, December, 2016 CRM (Child Rights Movement) Sindh, in collaboration with their implementing partner in the province, SPARC, and Chief Social Welfare Ministry, Women Development and Labor Development (Sindh); inaugurated a report title ‘Child Specific Resource Allocation in Sindh Budget” (2015-16 & 2016-17). The event was held at Mehran Hotel, Karachi.

The report includes analysis of the budgetary allocation on child rights by the Sindh government. A comparative analysis has been drawn in the report on two fiscal years, i.e. 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. The report includes all components of children specific schemes and programmes. 

According to the report, a sum of Rs 200 million was allocated by the Sindh Government for child protection in the budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 under the Child Protection Authority Act, 2011 through the Social Welfare Department. This budget was not utilized by the end of December, 2016, whereas he percentage of allocation from the annual development programme (ADP) for child-specific schemes by the Education and Literacy Department has fallen from 60.48% in 2015-2016 to 40.05% in 2016-2017.

SPARC Board Member Nominated as a Member of National Commission on the Status of Women for 2nd Term

nominated as a member of National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) for the second term (For a three years’ tenure) to represent KP in the commission.

National Commission on the Status of Women is a statutory body, established in July 2000. It is an outcome of the national and international commitments of the Government of Pakistan like Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995; and National Plan of Action (NPA) for Women, 1998. NCSW was established with the specific purpose to: Examine policies, programs and other measures taken by the government for women’s development and gender equality.


UK Football Child Sex Abuse Scandal: Hundreds Come Forward to Police

Police have revealed that around 350 people have come forward to report allegations of child sexual abuse within the football community in the UK.

The figures, compiled by forces and including referrals to a specially set up helpline were released in a statement on 1st, December, 2016. A hotline set up to help victims of the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked English football has received 860 calls for help in its first week.

The service, set up and monitored by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), says its staff made 60 referrals to the police and social services in the first three days alone.

260 Million Children and Adolescents out of School Globally

There are 260 million children and adolescents out of school globally, said the Education Commission, a global organization of former prime ministers, academics and business leaders set up last year to campaign for investment in education.

Education Commission data forecasts that by 2030, half of the 1.6 billion young people in the world will not have secondary level skills, and will not be easily absorbed into a job market which is demanding higher skill levels. The world is facing a crisis if countries do not increase their education budgets and get more children into school, warned Julia Gillard, chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global education funding agency.

This is attributed largely to poverty with parents unable to afford to send their children to school but also other factors such as discrimination based on ethnicity, caste or religion.

Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, said this was a crisis not just for the individual child who misses out on school, but also at the global economy level. “One of things we have learned is that we can overcome these problems if we try.

Some Poor Venezuelan Parents Give Away Children Amid Deep Crisis

With average wages less than the equivalent of $50 a month at black market rates, three local councils and four national welfare groups in Venezuela have confirmed an increase in parents handing children over to the state, charities or friends and family.

The government has not release data on the number of parents giving away their children and welfare groups struggle to compile statistics given the ad hoc manner in which parents give away children and local councils collate figures.

Every day at the social services center in Carirubana (Municipality) more than a dozen parents plead for help taking care of their children in this isolated, arid corner of Venezuela with a shaky water supply and little food.

Last year, the rate was around one parent a day.

"The principal motive now is lack of food," said Maria Salas, director of the small and understaffed center, echoing colleagues at two other welfare groups interviewed by Reuters elsewhere in the country.

Salas added that her organization - the Council of Protection for Children and Adolescents - lacked the resources to deal with the situation and had asked authorities for help, even just a dining room, but had no luck.

In some cases, parents are simply abandoning their kids. Last month, a baby boy was found inside a bag in a relatively wealthy area of Caracas and a malnourished one-year-old boy was found abandoned in a cardboard box in the eastern city of Ciudad Guayana, local media reported.


Speakers Stress Need for Stories for Children in Urdu Literature

Talking about why Urdu literature for children has been suffering lately during an event held in Karachi, Humera Athar translated a Chinese proverb into Urdu: Jis jungle mein shair khatam ho jatay hain, vahan bandar ki badshahat ho jati hai [Monkeys become kings of the jungle where lions go extinct].

Children used to write and send us their works to be published back in the day, reminisced Humera Athar, who headed the children’s pages in a newspaper for more than seven years. She was a panelist at the session, titled ‘Urdu mein bachon ke adab ki soorat-e-haal [The state of Urdu literature for children]’, on the fourth day of the ninth Aalmi Urdu Conference at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, on Sunday. The session was moderated by Ali Hasan Sajid.

“Children used to write and send us their works to publish in those days but today things have changed and newspapers do not accommodate such stories and do not encourage children to write,” she said.

According to Sajid, there were around 350 children magazines after 1947. However, he added, all were closed unfortunately and we hardly have 30 magazines today.

Another panelist, Rumana Husain, was of the view that the tradition of parents going to buy books for their children other than course books has vanished. “There are no special programmes for children on TV or radio,” she added.

Fata Education Foundation (FEF) Unveils Plan to Reform Fata by Educating Conflict Stricken Children

Fata Education Foundation (FEF) is aiming to enhance enrollment of children who were displaced during military operations. According to FEF more than 76 schools for boys and 61 for girls have been established across tribal regions. Due to a dearth in educators FEF and ALS encourage young local community members to come teach at their schools. The aim of community-based schools is to bring education to children who have suffered as a result of mass displacement.

The project is part of the ‘Literacy for All’ campaign under the Annual Development Program (ADP) which has been initiated to bring education to militancy-hit Fata. Since the inception of this initiative, several children have been enrolled in Alternative Learning Schools (ALS).

UNICEF Launches Adolescent Empowerment Project in Punjab

Adolescents from various youth associations of Punjab came together at a colorful ceremony organized by UNICEF and the College of Youth Activism and Development (CYAAD) to celebrate the launch of – “Improving Adolescent Lives in South Asia” – a regional intervention funded by the IKEA Foundation.

The pilot project – the primary focus of which is to support a reduction in child marriage, particularly among adolescent girls – will be implemented in a number of Union Councils in Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur Districts for a period of three years.

It is also envisaged that improving access to information as a key intervention will strengthen the capacity of adolescents to form and express their opinions with confidence, thereby promoting and protecting the right of the child to participation and freedom of expression. In addition, parents and communities will be capacitated to understand adolescents’ rights and support their realization through enhanced access to community-based structures equipped to strengthen the protective environment for children.