Pakistan has notoriously been known as a country having one of the highest child labour rate. Unfortunately, a large number of our children are working in terrible conditions across Pakistan. They are deprived of their fundamental right to proper food, shelter, health, education and security. Many children roam across streets whole day and night as garbage collectors, beggars, flower vendors and other menial jobs. They are vulnerable to many evils and there is absolutely no one to protect them. It is unfortunate that their parents have left them for earning on the brutal roads where they encounter horrendous incidents which an average middle-class child does not face. As a result of which they fall into deep depression and become segregated part of the society. Hence, their talent, dreams, ambitions and desires are crushed by an unruly society which failed to incorporate them amicably.

It is a common notion that we like to expect everything from the government. We expect them to take care of the people and we ourselves, refrain from taking up the responsibility. Pakistan government has legislated laws at federal and provincial levels to protect them from street harassment and help them become affective members of the community. Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance, 2002, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992 have been affective in the country and the recently promulgated ‘Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Ordinance, 2016’ can further improve their condition. The governments are dedicated to remove child labour and as it has forbidden employers to hire adolescents under the age of 14 and also restricted their working hours to a maximum of seven hours a day. Moreover, children are not allowed to work during the school hours, making it compulsory for all children to attend school. Implementation of the said ordinance is a gradual and steady process. But here lies the question, does the responsibility only lies on the government? The answer is no. We all need to play our part in removing the menace of child illiteracy, harassment, under-age employment, long working hours that hinder their mental and physical growth.

Every individual is responsible for the safeguard of fellow citizen. We can start this change from our homes. We should discourage the increasing trend of employing young servants and maids at our houses. If we have a family living in our servant quarters, we should provide them with the same food that we eat, offer them proper salaries so that they can make their ends meet. They are not always begging for money, but sometimes little acts of kindness can also make their day. We are humans and if we want to live in a better world, then we will have to accept everyone as equal and respect the rights of others living around us whose presence we often choose to ignore.

Published in Young Nation magazine on July 23, 2016