On 23rd November 2017 SPARC in collaboration with American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), Child Rights Coalition (CRC) Asia and National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan (NCHR) conducted a Seminar on Child Labour and Children in Modern Day Slavery. The event entailed a panel discussion on key issues associated with child labour and children in modern day slavery in Pakistan followed by an evocative theater performance by street children to highlight the issues of child labour.
The panelists at the event included; Anees Jillani (Advocate Supreme Court & Founder of SPARC), Tahira Abdullah (Human Rights Activist), Nafisa Khattak (Member National Assembly), Chaudhry Muhammad Shafiq (Member ICT NCHR), Justice Retd. Ali Nawaz Chohan (Chairman, NCHR), Abid Niaz Khan (National Project Coordinator at International Labour Organization), Dr. Meesha Iqbal (Department of Community Health Sciences, Agha Khan University), Iftikhar Ahmad (Labour Rights Activist). The session was moderated by Sadia Husain (Executive Director, SPARC).
This occasion was thus chosen to highlight that child labour and children in modern day slavery continue to remain manifest problems within the context of Pakistan. According to the 2014-15 Labour Force Survey there are indicated to be 3.70 million children, between the ages of 10-17 in the workforce, of which 1.64 million are engaged in hazardous work; while earlier estimates from 2010-11 Labor Force Survey indicated 5.7 million 10-17 year olds in the workforce. In the absence of a nationwide survey these numbers are estimates and actual figures are believed to be higher. The Global Slavery Index, 2016 estimates 2.1 million people in Pakistan living under slavery making up about 1.13% of the global population. This constitutes a significant proportion of children engaged in modern-day slavery.
Commencing the event Mr. Farshad Iqbal, Manager Research & Communications, SPARC highlighted the need for civil society organizations to address the issues of child labour through innovative measures in advocacy and service delivery to maximize their impact. He further asserted that integrated government poverty alleviation measures including shifts in micro-economic and macro-economic policies were the need of the hour to substantially eliminate the problems of poverty which is the salient cause of child labour.
During the seminar SPARC unveiled two of its latest researches on child labour namely; Street Children of Pakistan and A Comparison of School Dropout Rates & Child Labour in District Haripur. During the independent child labour survey in District Haripur, by SPARC it was discovered that many children were working under hazardous circumstances in industries and establishments with an average of 12 hours of daily work for a remuneration as small as Rs 50-Rs 100 (daily). Furthermore, 86% of these children were school dropouts and 56% children had no interest in continuing their studies due to multiple reasons such as; corporal punishment, and poverty.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Hassan Mangi, Director General Ministry of Human Rights endorsed the recommendations presented by lawyers and civil society participants and emphasized the moral and ethical responsibility of every organization and every individual to work in collaboration for the implementation and embodiment of the UNCRC. Speaking on bonded labour he stressed the need for strengthening monitoring and accountability mechanisms of district vigilance committees.
Chief Guest, Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chohan (Chairman NCHR), emphasized on the need for spearheading poverty alleviation initiatives and linking them to concerned departments for eradicating child labour and modern day slavery.
Towards the end of the event, children from SPARC’s Center for Street Children (CSC) participated in a theater performance directed by TV artist Mr. Batin Farooqi to highlight the how poverty and lack of awareness leads to child labour and child marriage.