Salvaging Childhood

By Rubab Mehboob.

The problem of child labor is immense and has been growing.Wherever poverty exists, child labor there prevails and it is one of the most striking issues in the developing countries. Hence, there is a need to identify the vulnerable children and point out the problems. It is very heart-rending and tragic that children are left all alone to face the iron specks in this cruel society. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention, child labor is defined as all children below 18, in harmful occupations or work activities in the labor market or their own household; all children undertaking work in the labor market or household interfering with their primary education; all children under 15, in full time employment; and all children under 13, in part time work. Child labor is defined not by the activity but by the effect this activity has on the child. In brief, the work or activities undertaken by children should not interfere with their education.

Childhood is a phase of life which is stress free and full of energy. Every child expects same love and affection from his or her parents. It is very easy to snub a child on a signal who is trying to sell flowers because his master will humiliate him if he did not achieve the sale target. We never think for a second that for what reason Allah has saved us and our children from this harsh life. Are we so special that Allah has saved us from such cruel and harsh time? Or it is just a matter of sheer luck that we are born in well settle and well off family? Do we ever count our blessings? Did you ever notice that there is nothing exceptional in your child on basis of which your child is blessed with well-off parents and provided with shield of love and care?  Your child is crying for a new toy and that poor child standing in a garbage tank only wish for clean place to stand. We never bothered to think that what we can do to end this viral problem is our society. We are in respectable situation not because we are very pious; we are because Allah wants us to become means of help for those who are not blessed with small things which we consider worthless in our life.

 Child labor is widespread in rural and backward areas where poverty level is extreme. It is duty of every citizen to save child from hardships of labor. For the audience numbering more than thousands including college and university students “to save and educate Pakistan” a challenge to help child laborers to get into schools. Children working at brick kilns, carpet weaving factories, running errands at chae shops and learning the trade at motor workshops are deprived of education. They are mal treated by their master. They are underprivileged. They are not given wages according to their hard work. It is just like to suck blood out of body and refill it with water instead of blood. All this happens because there is no one to raise voice for them.  Other well-to-do Children who go to schools and colleges wearing their uniforms pass these working child laborers without realizing how blessed and fortunate they are not be earning a living at such tender age. It is our problem to get those child laborers out from darkness and provide them educated environment. Article 25 A of a constitution of Pakistan makes it mandatory on the government to provide free education from age of 5 to 16.

Question is who is going to implement it provincially? No government focuses on education and issues like child labor which is main cause of terrorism. All funds are wasted on pomp and show of our VVIP political leader’s security. We never worked for our nation. Everyone is trying to get hold of authority just to become part of marathon of brands, lavish weddings and all sort of pomp and show. We always blame our government and officials but do we take any step personally? Thousands of children, due to the poverty, are forced to work as laborers before they ever enter school and many must leave school in the middle of a course of study to become laborers. Once children are snatched from school and put to work, they are cut off from their normal development, education and relationships. Shattered by suffering at early ages, these children require special treatment, education and attention.The problem of child labor is closely associated with poverty and underdevelopment.

It is often pointed out that poverty is the main cause for child labor in general. As in all the developing countries including India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Papua, New Guinea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi, Sudan, and Chad, the prevalence of poverty is high and therefore, child labor in these developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, does exist to a larger extent. In poor families parents of child laborers are not people who let their children work instead of themselves, but people who find it necessary to draw on more of the household’s resources to secure the necessary income. Child labor thus does not replace adult labor, but complements it.

The existence of child labor is not related to culture but to income and its distribution. Parents have many children because they secure the survival of the household. They send them to work because they lack the means to sustain them. Children work because there are no better options to fill a hungry stomach. Child labor is the only market they have access to. To ban a child labor only is not a solution it will make situation worst for children. Government should provide education and focus on fair distribution of income among people of working class.

Writer is an English literature student and hails from Islamabad.

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