Hope for forlorn children
Islamabad-Among the 200 million Pakistani population nearly half are challenged by the menace of poverty translating into all sorts of ills and deprivations.
Children from this background are exposed from birth to the harsher realities of life, ending up in wrong hands, falling prey to exploiters or in other cases finding their way into cash-starved orphanages.
The government does little to help them out and bring them at par with fellow citizens who enjoy a better life. Though there is no dearth of charitable people in Pakistan, it is hard to channelize the donations towards transforming deprived children into responsible citizens rather than producing beggars and criminals.
But hope is still not lost. There are people working to rescue the less fortunate children into the ring of life where they can contribute to their own and the nation’s progress after being equipped with quality education.
Kulsume Hai is a one such person who, along with her family and friends, is making efforts to drag the deprived and victimized children back to life from the clutches of poverty and offer them a chance to realize their potential in life.
Within months of starting her journey, she has found success. “We have received good response from the people. Everybody wants to help. The only problem is we have to be transparent in our work and show them we are doing what we are speaking about, and actually providing children with the support they need to grow up in a healthy environment and have a purposeful, clean life , secure from exploitation and crime,” she said.
Hai said that she has been trying to help exploited or victimized children. “We try to provide them assistance to grow as I would like my children to grow, to lead a healthy, secure life and grow up to be independent and responsible citizens of this country. My efforts may be small, but I am concentrating on quality,” she elaborated.
The philanthropist is part of her family’s not-for-profit company ‘Panaah’ which means shelter or protection.
“For now it is mainly our family who are running this. We get donations from private donors, and we are ourselves also donors for the cause. The aim is to do whatever we can for children, while not compromising on the quality of our work,” she remarked.
On her inclination to work for the less privileged children, she said, “Women, children, and minorities are usually considered vulnerable segments of society.
While there are loads of people working for women rights and empowerment, but the plight of homeless, orphan and destitute children is hardly noticed. Somehow it is thought that if the head of the family is given charity, it will reach the children, but it is seldom the case, given our social dynamics and the choices the adults make regarding their children’s rights and future.
The orphans and homeless children, runaways, and lost children are totally without any safety net, apart from a few organizations like Edhi working with them. We need to realize that children are our future and we have to invest in their development. If we provide them a safe environment and chance to get an education, we will save them from crime, and our society will benefit from them in future.”
Hai said her organization was focusing on providing food, clothing, books, other necessities and education to homeless, orphans and other needy children. “Instead of just providing just food to lots of children, we concentrate on a smaller number by giving them full facilities of life, especially education, which is our priority. We can expand our operations as we grow,” she maintained.
She said Panaah was active in Lahore and Islamabad and cooperating with other organizations in other cities. Last year, government launched the first ever official report on multidimensional poverty. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform’s reports provided details about Pakistan’s official Multidimensional Poverty Index.
The MPI report, prepared with the support of United Nations Development Programme, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and the University of Oxford, noted that nearly 39 per cent of Pakistanis lived in multidimensional poverty. Balochistan and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas were worst affected by poverty.
According to the report, 73 per cent people in FATA and 71 per cent in Balochistan live in multidimensional poverty. Poverty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stood at 49 per cent, in Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh at 43 per cent, in Punjab at 31 per cent and in Azad Jammu and Kashmir at 25 per cent.
Kulsume Hai said with collective efforts Pakistan could get out of the poverty cycle. She said Panaah was not looking to the government for donations. “If the government helps us, we will welcome it, but we will not depend on this only. There are scores of people who want to donate to the poor. We want to channelize this charity towards a meaningful and crucial mission of investing in our children’s future,” she insisted.
In 1990, Pakistan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pakistan however, made a reservation that the provision would be interpreted under the Islamic laws and values.
Later, in 1997, Pakistan decided to withdraw its reservation, to unconditionally implement children’s rights in the country. Pakistan is also a party to other international instruments to improve the rights of the child.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child or CRC is the first legally binding international instrument incorporating the full range of human rights.
The convention was a result of world leaders’ concern for the rights of the children as they believed the population below the age of 18 needed special care.
Under the convention the children everywhere have the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival, and development; and respect for the views of the child.
She said the people should support Panaah’s efforts for children’s right to have a secure life with the necessities and education.
“Our system is totally transparent. People will be allowed to see how and where their money is being spent, and the difference it is making in the life of the child they are supporting. We are soon developing an online system through which they can donate online, see the child its being spent on, and can even ‘adopt’ children online by paying for either, food, education, books or clothing or a complete package for as long as they can afford, or till the child grows up and can be independent, this way a person who is willing to help a child but not able to take its responsibility, can also contribute” she added. “We also plan to provide them job opportunities when they grow up, Allah willing.”
Hai said, “I want to make a day come that there should not be any Tayyaba in our society. We are also raising our voice for improving legislation to ensure the protection of children’s rights. If we as a nation are determined to change the condition of our children, we can change their lives for the better.”
This news was published in The Nation newspaper.