The dilemma of big family rule has pushed thousands of children to the primitive trade and society to the barbaric era where the outer behavior of the child is molded to the extreme methods of food-getting. This is happening in the “city of lights”- Karachi, where at the end of each exhausting day, when the night falls, thousands of street children of under 13 years of age, especially girls, turn into ‘survival sex workers’ and get engaged in other illicit trade against only a meager meal.
Social activists blame unplanned family rule and poverty for pushing innocent children to these illegal works. The horrifying fact was revealed while investigating the issues of big families that have more than five children. These children became vulnerable to the situation as their poor parents cannot bear the cost of their meal. Their lack of choice has pushed them towards the profession, an act which is not intended or desired.
“These children are the circumstantial victims of “survival sex”. They belong to big families and have either been abandoned or forced out of home by their parents due to absolute poverty,” disclosed Anwar Kazmi, the spokesperson of Edhi Foundation, the largest non-profit social welfare organization in Pakistan. Children are not safe, cared or nurtured unless there is a concrete solution to the big family issue, he viewed.
“To address the issue of big family system Sindh Government has come up with Rs 140.647bn Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) for brief family strategy that could ensure financial stability. It is possible only when rule of birth spacing or small family is designed. CIP will cover all the nooks where all previous FP programmes could not touch”, Technical Adviser of the programme Dr Talib Lashari said.
“CIP will obviously improve the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) rate from 30 to 45 percent in the province thus improving financial stability of every household. Lady Health Workers (LHW)s will be redefined under the programme, which aims at linking Planned Parenthood and socio-economic development. It will teach families to restrain births to meet their ends smoothly. Therefore CIP will guarantee women physical health and ensure their financial health,” he added.
“Despite a noticeable rise in the CPR, FP remains the most neglected component of women’s health in Sindh as well as all over Pakistan, while existing FP programmes have failed to cover many areas” said gynecologist Dr Sohail Ahmed. However, the Sindh government’s new initiative CIP will serve the purpose as it will cover all those areas that were left unattended by all previous FP programmes, he added.
World Health Organization (WHO) recommends women should wait two years for next birth to prepare a woman physically for her next birth. The measured birth years help both women and children staying healthy and contain birth more than they want to have. It also helps women plan financially healthy household.
But unfortunately Sindh’s daughters are not educated on their financially healthy household and reproductive health. Mother of six ‘T’, 35 lives at UP More, North Karachi, has been married for thirteen years and talks relentlessly in favor of her births that have taken a toll on her health while the seventh baby was on the way. “These are gifts from heaven. Even my mother did never raise a question when we were born. Then why should I?” Despite bad health ‘T’ has to work hard as domestic help in three houses to support her family while her husband does nothing except of playing cards in front of a neighborhood ‘chai shop’.
It is not so hard to determine the requirement of low-income household with seven children but one can easily draft a budget for a family of three children, which is definitely friendly than that of ‘T’s.
“Under-earned parents don’t have access to complete meal and healthy lifestyle. These families do not practice birth spacing while the burden of childcare rests primarily on mothers, poor women in a very compromising position. Despite their sufferings birth is a divine gift to them as they reject the idea of planning or spacing them, however, ends up abandoning them on roads.” Kazmi observed.
Karachi holds approximately 25,000 street children. Some are sold out as child labourers while many of the children are forced by parents to take whatsoever work they can grab in order to get a benefit out of them, Kazmi said. “Every year, hundreds of unwanted or unplanned children are sold out or left out in the cold as parent cannot afford their rearing. Most of them do not survive while we don’t have any specific child service bureau for providing assistance in this regard. These families don’t restrict births thus form large families with more than 7-8 children,” he continued.
“Earlier, they used to leave the unintended or unwelcomed newborn in our “Eidhi’s cot”, but now things have been changed due to communication development. Parents themselves can sell babies by directly connecting with the buyers,” Eidhi spokesperson revealed.
Unfortunately, social beliefs and customs have resulted in high birth rates in the families. ‘I was eldest among nine siblings and out of college as my father sent me to work to enhance the family income,” ‘R’, 52 from a modest neighborhood of FB area said. “I married off 5 sisters and helped grew up 3 brothers. Now I have 6 sons to care for. Like father, I too, have withdrawn the eldest from school now he contributes to family income.”
Here ‘R’ is a model example of a large family concept, whose family has found the traditional source of security among their eldest off springs through familial generations thus affecting three stages in the line of descents.
I dream of a Pakistan, of an Asia, of a World, where every pregnancy is planned and every child conceived is nurtured, loved, educated, and supported. “I dream of a Pakistan, of an Asia, of a world not undermined by ethnic divisions brought upon by population growth, starvation, crime and anarchy.” Former Prime Minister late Benazir Bhutto said in her speech delivered to the International Conference on Population Development, Cairo, in 1994.
Health experts believe that although, conceived from a similar ongoing programme in Bangladesh, late Benazir sensed the need of the LHW programme with the feel of a mother. 100,000 LHWs from all over the country was trained for FP purpose. But the programme lost Sindh government’s attention and its services were affected. Further damage was done by deviating workers from FP services to immunization campaigns. The LHW programme covers only half of the Sindh while the latest CIP programme will cover all the areas where previous programmes could not touch, Dr Lashari said.
CIP focuses on planning cropped families to get rid of economic disadvantages of running large families. Sindh’s conservative society never allows a girl to learn or talk about pre or post natal health. As per the programme, birth related complications simply weaken women and they suffer in the long way. It also put them through financial instability as they cannot continue doing household as well as economic activities due to decreased health thus affecting their physical wellbeing, child’s health and financial stability altogether. The situation indicates that previous FP programmes faced failure due to great deal of shortcoming. With the new mission emerging as a savior, can CIP bring about a change in physical and financial wellbeing of women in the province?