Stories about child labour

Education only panacea to current mess

Today, Pakistan finds itself in the quagmire of violence, uncertainty, and despair, mainly because of its shattered and obsolete education system. A recent report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) states that Pakistan is number two in the world with 25 million children out of school, coupled with an astronomical dropout rate. This gloomy picture exists because of the oppressive socio-economic conditions that have fostered impoverished living circumstances, monopoly of resources and concentration of wealth in a few hands. State institutions, occupied and run by a handful of feudals, have shirked their responsibility to ...

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Happiness is just a frame of mind: A fake eye and a haunting past

So what’s the biggest problem in your life? An exam you failed? The fact that your parents spoil your little sister more than they spoil you? Is it the new lawn prints you can’t afford? How unfair life is, right? I thought the same until my maid told me her story. I was lying in the lounge, depressed as ever. How could God be so unfair? I moaned and I complained. A dumb friend of mine had received an acceptance letter from a university abroad because he could afford it; I couldn’t. I was still in the worst of all moods when my ...

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Young Fatima’s resilience

She is very young. Her laughter flows like music through the windows of my room, as she plays with other children in the backyard of the house, where she works as a maid. When the ball lands at our place, she humbly requests to throw it back so they can continue with their game. Her voice so endearing; the sound of her giggles warms my heart, but her happiness is usually short lived. In the morning, when other children are busy getting ready for school, she washes dishes, even though her chin reaches just a few inches above the washbasin. She ...

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Invest in our children today, see them bring ideals to life tomorrow

In 1995, 12-year-old Iqbal Masih was murdered by a ‘carpet-mafia’ after having escaped from bonded labour. At the age of four, Masih was forced into child labour at a carpet factory after his mother could afford nothing else. When he ran away at the age of 10, his story was picked up by the international media and he soon became a worldwide symbol for the fight against child labour. Even after his death, Masih’s bravery, especially as someone who came from a difficult background, still lingers in the world. I happened to come across an anti-child labour protest around his ...

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Child rights not important enough for you Mr Prime Minister?

Last year in September, I was told that the Ministry of Human Rights would table a draft of the first ever commission on children’s rights in parliament within six months. Adviser to the prime minister on human rights, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar had claimed that the ministry was working on a draft round the clock to get it finalised, that the draft was almost ready and that they would present it in the National Assembly to make it part of legislation without further delays. However, last week, I attended a seminar where I was astonished to see Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ...

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I am 12 years old and I wish there was no child labour!

Yesterday, I went to my friend’s house to play. We wanted to go cycling on the road in his neighbourhood. Since, there was no air in the tyres we had to go to the cycle tyre shop. We went to the nearest cycle shop which was at Saba Avenue. We had to stand in line to get it fixed. On our turn, an 11-year-old boy started fixing the puncture. While he was fixing it he noticed that the brake wire was also broken. When he had fixed the two punctures he turned the cycle around to fix the wire. While he ...

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Is education for Karachi slum-dwellers a waste of time?

In 2008, on a typical hot and humid summer morning, I was driving through Karachi city to get to work. Passing close to Karachi’s biggest slum area, Orangi, my car broke down and I had it brought to a workshop nearby to get it fixed. The workshop had a head mechanic, who diagnosed the problem and then assigned one of the several teenagers working for him to fix the issue. I observed the child working on my car and found him to be very talkative. He asked me about how I’ll be late for office and commented on my good luck ...

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Child labour in Pakistan: They have dreams like ours

Child labour refers to work done by children that harms them or exploits them either physically or mentally. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) defines a ‘child’ as anyone below the age of 18, and ‘child labour’ as any form of work performed by children below age 18. On the way to university, a few days ago, I observed many children working in the streets of Quetta. Most of them were boys, between the age of 10 to 14. They were carrying an assortment of goods like paper, plastic, wood and pieces of metal in bags in order to sell these. Looking ...

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Treat her like a lady, not a baby-making machine

Kaneez* has five young children with a small age difference between them. She works full-time as a domestic maid and takes short, rushed breaks in order to nurse her youngest child, a five-month-old infant. If her break becomes longer than the expected five minutes, she is severely rebuked by her employer.  Life is hard for Kaneez. Not only does her husband expect her to make ends meet, but also wants her to keep adding more children to the brood. Her children fight all the time, demand clothes and toys when she takes them grocery shopping and throw tantrums when their ...

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Torture behind the scenes of fashion

Last month, one of the biggest textile names in Pakistan hosted a typically grandiose and hugely successful event showcasing its latest line of fashion wear. Cameras flickered to capture celebrities and designers entering and exiting the venue. Glaring lights reflected against colourful backdrops which displayed the names of sponsors and partners. Stone faced models posed elegantly for the glitterati. In a land 20 kilometres away and some days earlier, 12 of the workers responsible for manufacturing towels sold at its outlet were arrested, detained, tortured and eventually charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The common factor uniting all 12 workers was that ...

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