Working children victim of exploitation
By: Zafar Alam Sarwar
Lower class people are amazed when primary schoolchildren seek from them the meaning of ‘revolution’ — the word being frequently used by some leaders on private TV channels these days.
Already somewhat in distress, parents fail to satisfy the coatless crazy kids who feel time hasn’t changed for them, nor the system and the environment they live and work in. Nobody has ever tried to discover the working child, retired city teachers assert.
They say childhood for many children presents a different picture. It is a time for playing, for learning and for progressive maturation into productive adulthood. But nothing has changed for children who are seen working in fields, tending cattle, weaving carpets, repairing cars and motorbikes, working in small hotels and tea stalls, picking waste items from trash, toiling at brick kilns, running errands as domestic servants. They’re the children who never enjoy childhood.
Advocates of human rights say that all forms of forced labour and traffic in human beings are prohibited, and under the Constitution no child below the age of 14 can be engaged in any factory or in mine or in any other hazardous employment. Similarly, it’s the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
About 24 years back, it was estimated that a minimum of eight million children under the age of 13 were fast at work in fields, as domestic servants, at brick kiln sites, weaving carpets, in small industries and workshops, at home overburdened with domestic chores, and on the streets doing this and that job. According to a media survey, the situation has not changed yet in the 21st century; there is an alarming increase in the number of children who have fallen prey to poverty and economic exploitation.
True, all work is not detrimental to the child. But widespread societal acceptance of child labour has obscured the fact that most of the child labour is exploitative and many occupations jeopardize the child’s health and development. One can say if poverty is the overall reason for child labour, the same is also the reason for poverty. The undeniable fact that poverty is responsible for child labour, but the fact that child labour itself is responsible for the perpetuation of poverty is often overlooked. As a class, working children constitute a highly uneducated segment of society; most of them being illiterate are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
One has seen a number of such little girls and boys working as domestic servants in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. They include those who are blown by poverty from villages of Gilgit and Baltistan.
A substantial number of children are ‘self-employed’, hawking cheap goods, shining shoes and collecting waste material. They include children born to parents who had migrated from Afghanistan. [email@example.com]