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Invest in children to improve their lot to ensure defense of country 

29 April 2011 09:01:04

Invest in children to improve their lot to ensure defense of country

Militancy claims 92 lives of children; far from achieving MDGs

No more excuses for investing in children’s health, education and nutrition, as they are the best defense line for the future of the county.

This was the crux of presentations by various speakers and key points of the 15th Annual Report on “State of the Pakistan Children 2010” launched by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) here Wednesday.

The report says in 2010, 92 children died while 118 children were seriously injured due to militancy. It says the Government of Khyber PakhtunKhwa took a positive step towards addressing violence against children by propagating the Khyber PakhtunKhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010 in September.

Moreover the passing of the 18th Amendment seems to be promising for the education system of Pakistan as Article 25 guarantees free and compulsory education for children aged 5-16 years. In the education and health sectors, Pakistan remains far from achieving the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The July 2010 floods further exacerbated the situation of children as by September 2010; there were over 2.5 million children under the age of five who were in need of food.

Member of National Assembly Bushar Gauhar said the report spoke of the state of the children which is going from bad to worse as child labour is reported down in the world while it is on the rise in Pakistan. She said under the 18th Amendment in the constitution, free education for all children aged 5-16 has been committed but to make it happen in actual, media and civil society and each citizen has to exert their pressure.

“We have to make decision whether we have to continue to invest in defence expenditures or in children for their education and development,” she added.

Qatrina Hosain from Express News called upon journalists to pro actively write stories on child rights issues and they should not wait for footage and pictures to do stories relating to children and their protection.

“Each one of us has to break silence by speaking out for working children. We have to discourage families employing children and rather suggest them to hire their parents and elders and not the children,” she added.

She regretted that children are hired because they can be exploited and they are given low wages. She said there are no laws or insufficient laws that can help rescue children from hazardous work places.

Executive Director of Ethnomedia, Samar Minallah spoke on culturally sanctioned violence against children and said Vanni, Swara, Sung Chatti and Irjaai are various forms of forced marriages of children in exchange of dispute settlement among tribes and individuals.

Arshad Mahmood, Executive Director SPARC in his inaugural speech regretted that no concrete steps have been taken for the implementation of the Concluding Observations and Recommendations (CO&Rs) made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in consideration of the last periodic report submitted to the Committee by Pakistan. He lamented that despite acknowledgment of the draconian nature of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) by the government in the speeches by the President and Prime Minister in the inaugural session of the National Assembly in 2008, the FCR still exists in FATA; numerous people including women and children continue to be imprisoned under its collective responsibility clause. He said political will is key to improve plight of children on a sustainable basis.

Deputy Head of Mission from the Royal Norwegian Embassy Terje Barstad said Pakistan has a long way to go in the implementation of the Recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. At least 40 per cent of the population here comprises of children under the age of 15 years. The health care in the country also remains to be prioritized. He shared that the Norwegian Embassy is focused on basic education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as on mother and child health care.

Chairman of SPARC’s Board of Directors Rashid Rehman presented his concluding remarks following a question and answer session in which the participants shared recommendations. The democratic government needs to ensure that the rights of children are protected and promoted.

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