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Sindh’s child rights protection efforts praised

Karachi: An Indonesian delegation praised Sindh’s efforts to curb child rights violations during its visit to the provincial assembly on Friday.

“Violence against children, both male and female, is widely prevalent in the present world and Indonesia and Pakistan are no exception,” said Edhi Suharto, the director of the Indonesian social welfare ministry’s directorate for child social welfare.

He said child marriages were the most severe violation of basic human and child rights.

However, he added, it was very encouraging that the legislators of the Sindh Assembly had taken an important step by passing the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 (in April 2014) and declaring marriage below the age of 18 punishable by law.

Suharto was leading a delegation comprising senior officials from the Indonesian Social Affairs and communication and information technology ministries and its state-run child helpline “Tesa”.

The purpose of the visit was to familiarise the delegation about lawmaking in the province from the child rights perspective.

The visit was arranged by Madadgaar National Helpline which is hosting the Indonesian delegation’s four-day visit to Pakistan.

Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza and Social Welfare Secretary Shariq Ahmed warmly welcomed the delegation on its arrival. Raza briefed the guests about the history of the Sindh Assembly and its historical role before and after the creation of Pakistan.

Speaking to the guests in the committee room, she said the Sindh Assembly held the honour of passing bills against violence on women and early and forced marriages for the first time. “We are also working on a bill against domestic violence,” she said. “Child rights are one of the top priorities of the Sindh government and it has established child protection units in 12 cities in the province.”

Speaking to reporters at the provincial assembly, Madadgaar Helpline founder Zia Ahmed Awan said the visit of the Indonesian delegation was part of his organisation’s efforts to bring together governments and rights organisations under one roof to eliminate child abuse from Asia and other parts of the world.

To achieve this goal, he said, Madadgaar had built alliances at the regional and international level.

He said Madadgaar was one of the founding members of the Child Helpline International – a global network of 179 child helplines in 143 countries which was contacted 14 million times a year by children and young people in need of care and protection. At the regional level, Madadgaar is a member of South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Children and the South Asia Child Helplines.

He said Madadgaar would continue its collaboration with federal and provincial governments in eliminating child abuse and exploitation from Pakistan.

To increase these activities and strengthen the network, the Child Helpline International arranged a peer exchange visit of the Indonesian delegation to the Madadgaar National Helpline, Pakistan from October 8 to 11.

The purpose of the visit was to share each other’s expertise on children prevention and protection. The Indonesian delegation on its first day on October 9 visited the Madadgaar National Helpline.

The Madadgaar team played a documentary about their organisation, covering its services and interventions for children, women and young people.

After the documentary, the Madadgaar team and the Indonesian delegation gave their presentations on the functioning of Madadgaar’s missing children desk, the use of new technology and the Indonesian child helpline activities. After these presentations, there was a session of review and discussion which proved to be very useful as the participants shared their experiences in context of their social, cultural and legal perspective.

The next session – a networking meeting – was held after lunch. The meeting was attended by representatives of civil society organisations including the Devcon, the Marie Stopes Society, the Rahnuma FPAP and the Madadgaar National Helpline and the FIA deputy director GA Jatoi and Sindh ombudsman registrar Masood Ishrat.

In the meeting, a child protection mechanism was discussed thoroughly by the Indonesian and Pakistani participants.

Both groups exchanged their government and developmental sectors’ efforts in providing children their rights including education, health, shelter, protection and freedom of speech and choice.

On the second day, after its visit to the Sindh Assembly, the delegation visited the Child Protection Unit, Karachi.

There, the delegation was briefed by senior officials led by Seema Nazli, the assistant director of child welfare at the social welfare department.

They said the Sindh government, in collaboration with Unicef, had set up 12 CPUs from Karachi to Ghotki to help the children in need of care, legal aid medical aid and shelter free of charge.

The News