SPARC NEWS

SPARC Launches its Annual “The State of Pakistan’s Children” Report

SPARC’s annual report “The State of Pakistan’s Children 2016” was launched on 27th April 2017 in Islamabad. The report has for the last two decades been systematically documenting the evolution of child protection laws, social attitudes and key developments, with an annual overview of the state of child rights in Pakistan. This includes detailed figures on the state of education, health, juvenile justice, violence against children and child labor across Pakistan. The ceremony was attended by representatives from various walks of life including social activists, government officials and journalists all of whom shared their views on the dismal state of Pakistan’s children.

Speaking at the event, Sadia Hussain, Executive Director SPARC said: “Children's rights have long been a neglected issue. While there has been progress in legislation related to child rights, Pakistan still lags behind international standards due to the poor implementation of existing child protection laws as well as a general lack of awareness on key issues”.

The panelists for discussion on key issues at the event included; Federica Di Stefano (Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF), Danish Khan (Special Assistant to Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform), Dr Haroona Jatoi (Professor Gender Studies), Abid Khan Niazi (National Project Coordinator at ILO) and Dr Manizeh Bano (Sahil).

The panelists discussed pressing issues related to child rights including lacunas in the implementation of laws, the need for additional legislation to safeguard child rights, and shared their personal experiences regarding child protection and child rights. Also present at the occasion was Director General for the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development NCCWD, Mr. Hassan Mangi who explained how the government was working tirelessly on certain child specific laws which are very close to being passed.

Justice (Retd.) Ali Nawaz Chohan Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) explained how the NCHR has been instrumental in helping the Senate rectify certain loopholes with regard to Juvenile Justice. In his address, he inspired the audience by comparing the current state of Pakistan with the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and reminded everyone of the importance to strive hard to make that dream a reality.

Baligh-ur-Rehman, Minister of State for Education and Interior commended SPARC for its continued efforts and highlighted the importance of the report in the current socio-economic environment.

The launch of the State of Pakistan’s Children 2016 report received overwhelming praise from civil society organizations for the compilation of concrete data from across the country to reflect the state of child rights and children’s issues in Pakistan.

SPARC would like to thank Kindernothilfe for its continued support for the children of Pakistan and for making the publication of this report possible.

The State of Pakistan’s Children 2016 Report can be downloaded via this link: http://www.sparcpk.org/2015/SOPC2016.html

SPARC Launches its Child Award for Excellence

The Launch of the “State of Pakistan’s Children” Report also presented an opportunity for SPARC to distribute its Child Award for Excellence for the year 2017. It was awarded to Eiza Abid, who was the winner of the UN Poster Competition for her amalgamation of dark tones and bright colors to represent the idea; freedom of thought.

SPARC Acknowledges Child Sensitive Media Reporting

During the annual report launch ceremony, the award for child sensitive media reporting was also presented to two prominent journalists for their contributions to the cause. Myra Imran from The News and Sadia Rafay from Dawn News Television were recognized and acknowledged for their tireless efforts in this regard.

 

SPARC Launches Enrollment Drive in Abbottabad

Abbottabad:A campaign for school enrolment was launched by SPARC on 8th April 2017, at the Press Club with District Education Officer Mr. Qazi Tajamul as the Chief Guest.  Speaking on the press conference, he said that children between the ages of five and nine years would be enrolled in schools during the month long campaign. He said that all education departments will make special arrangements to make the campaign successful. He also added that every child would be equipped with education to make the country a dignified and sovereign nation. The school enrollment campaign aimed to bring all out-of-school children to educational institutions, and was continued till April 30th.

Addressing the Press Conference Mr. Shahid Aziz District Coordinator SPARC highlighted the importance of education as a necessary means to sustainable development and also reiterated the province’s legislative responsibility towards fulfilling constitutional provisions, namely that of Article 25-A.

 

SPARC Observes International Day for Street Children

SPARC celebrated the International Day for Street Children on April 12th, by holding a rally in Hyderabad, where members the Child Rights Movement and the SPARC brought out scores of street children. This was done in order to highlight the plight of street children who constitute perhaps the most the abused and vulnerable segment of society. In spirit of the day, children from SPARC’s Centre for Street Children (CSCs) – Rawalpindi were mainstreamed into government schools to pursue formal education.

Post Card Campaign in Seven Districts of KP

In the month of April a Post Card Campaign was initiated in seven districts of KP including Abbottabad, Haripur, Swabi, Charsada, Nowshera, Mardan, for the implementation of Article 25-A of the constitution, Child domestic labor and Prohibition of corporal punishment. This activity has successfully done and 1000 postcards were dispatched to Chief Minister of KP. The aim behind this activity was to sensitize the parliamentarians to take concrete steps to introduce and implement such laws which promote and protect the child rights situation in country.

Dialogue on “Regional Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia” in Kathmandu, Nepal

FORUM-ASIA organised a two-day regional dialogue on “Regional Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia” in Kathmandu, Nepal on 6-7th April 2017. The event was attended by FORUM-ASIA members from South Asia and other key civil society experts. The participants critically reviewed and reflected the on-going efforts towards the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism in South Asia. Anees Jillani, Founder and Member of SPARC's Board of Directors, moderated the session on "Building Collective Strategy (to rise to the challenge) - What (strategy), and - How (to implement the strategy) to put forth viable ideas and strategies on how to move forward in the current regional context.

Speech Competitions Held During Global Campaign for Education (GCE) Week

SPARC held declamation contests as part of its GCE (Global Campaign for Education) week celebrations from 23rd to 30th, April, 2017, at its Headquarters in Islamabad and in the districts of Haripur and Abbottabad. The theme for this year’s GCE Week was “Time to Deliver” which focused on gauging the headway made in this regard at a national level. Speech competitions held in the capital and both districts saw active participation by a number of students who delivered thought provoking speeches in order to sensitize the policy makers and other stakeholders to give proper attention to the education sector. In Haripur, 180 students 15 teachers and 20 Parents Teachers Councils members participated whereas 230 students, 12 teachers and 6 PTC members participated in Abbottabad. SPARC would like to acknowledge BMZ’s continued support for the uplift of public schooling initiatives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Schools participating in the bi-lingual declamation contest in Islamabad included government schools, private schools and street children centres.

SPARC’s Sindh Drive for GCE Global Action Week 2017

GCE's Global Action Week 2017 continued to be observed with fervor by SPARC from 23rd to 30th April all over Sindh. Commencing with an “Awareness Rally” regarding increase in enrollment in public schools on Sunday 23rd April from SPARC Street Children Center Hyderabad to Press Club Hyderabad.

This was followed by a seminar on “Citizen Engagement, Community Participation” towards achieving Goal 4 of the SDGs on 24th April in Indus Glass Government Primary School Hyderabad. In addition a Press Conference wasconducted by SPARC for general public awareness through media engagement during the Action Week on 25th April at Press Club Hyderabad followed by a Rally in Dadu by Child Rights Clubs(CRCs) on 26th April, along with a general awareness program among community in Sanghar on 27th April by engaging members of the CRCs, followed by a Press conference in District Mirpurkhas on 28th April. The campaign ended with press conferences in District Nawab Shah & Karachi on 29th April and in Mithi on 30th April.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Malawi Outlaws Child Marriage

On April 25th, Malawi’s President signed a constitutional amendment raising the legal marriage age to 18. This was accomplished after years of campaigning for an end to child marriages. The legislative step marks a victory for the achievement of children’s, in particular girls’ rights, however the enforcement of the ban is necessary to ensure complete eradication of child marriages.Under-aged girls in Malawi can now heave a sigh of relief because perpetrators of such marriages commit an offense punishable by five years imprisonment and a fine of about $143. Child rights activists’ however, fear enforcing the law will be difficult unless the government also addresses the poverty that drives families to marry off their young daughters. Malawi has had one of the world's highest rates of child marriage. According to the government survey released last year, 47 percent of women and girls are married before age 18.

Appalling Conditions Reported in Orphanages and Child Care Institutions

According to Child Rights International Network (CRIN) almost 100 children were reported to be on the brink of starvation in orphanages in Belarus, which prompted rightful public revulsion and a criminal investigation. Teenagers weighing as little as 15 kilos were found languishing in these homes. Prosecutors say the causes for this abhorrent state were neglect in provision of adequate medical nutrition combined with a lack of checks conducted on the medical facilities.

While in Cambodia, a crackdown was launched against bogus orphanages on 20th April. A survey found that many orphanages opened in recent years, were found to be unlicensed, unsafe and with few real orphans, which raised concerns about neglect and abuse. It was also reported that 38 percent of orphanages had never been inspected which puts the children in a vulnerable position as they are more susceptible to being abused and exploited. Orphanage tourism is also reported to have exacerbated the problem since it incentivizes the mushrooming of fake orphanages to attract donations.

Malala Yousafzai Honoured as UN’s youngest Messenger of Peace

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was selected by UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asUN’s Messenger of Peace, a high honourbestowed by the world body on a global citizen. This nomination was conferred due to her unwavering commitment towards women’s and girls’ rights. According to the Secretary General, her designation as such promises the creation of a more peaceful and just world.

NATIONAL NEWS

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passes Bill for Free, Compulsory Education

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed the Free Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act, 2017 which stated that government shall provide free compulsory primary and secondary education to all the children from the age of five to sixteen years in the province. The law as of now will not be implemented in the entire province rather it will be done so in specific areas through the education department due to issues of accessibility in some areas. The law also outlines strict guidelines to ensure children’s attendance in schools and provisions for setting up a “Taleem Fund” for schools.

Child Pornography Business Unearthed in Sargodha

In Sargodha a man was arrested for selling child pornography on the Internet whereby he admitted to having lured some 25 children into the heinous act on the pretext of imparting them computer education. During the interrogation it was revealed that he had been selling child pornographic content online for the last few years. The suspect paid between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 5,000 to the parents of the victims, saying that their children would learn computer hardware and software (skills) in his one-room rented workshop in Sargodha. The FIA later recovered some 65,000 child pornography video clips from the suspect’s possession hacked from foreign websites. The case however, suffered a blow when none of the children allegedly exploited or their parents approached by the Federal Investigation Agency were willing to record statement against the prime suspect.


Law for Protection of Unattended Children in Process

On 26th April, it was reported that the federal government is devising a law for the protection and registration of unattended children, through a special welfare fund to be created through the Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Bill 2016. This decision comes in the wake of recent surfacing of torture cases of child domestic labour which highlighted the dearth of protection mechanisms for employed minors. The proposed bill suggests a mechanism for the rescue, care and protection of children at risk. Moreover, under the proposed law, a child in need of protection and care will include children who have been subjected to or are under serious threat of child abuse or exploitation while in the care of their parents, legal guardians or any other person who has their custody; or if a child is unattended, the victim of an offence, found begging, imprisoned with the mother or lives in an immoral environment.The proposed law also envisages the setting up of a child protection advisory board, known as the Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Advisory Board, with the Minister for Human Rights as its chairperson.