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Speakers call for integrated approach over child rights

PESHAWAR: Speakers here in a consultative session on the institutional framework for child protection in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have stressed the need for an integrated approach to child protection to ensure joint efforts of all institutions for protection of child rights.

The session was organized by National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) in collaboration with UNICEF organized a Consultation on Institutional Framework for Child Protection in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa here in a local hotel, said a press release issued here.

Parliamentarians, government officials, and representatives from different embassies, UN Agencies, National and International NGOs, lawyers, various associations and academia attended the session. The purpose of the consultative session was to review and adopt a systemic approach to address various child protection issues in KP. Children are subjected to insidious forms of violence, exploitation and abuse including physical, emotional or sexual and economic exploitation.

Regardless of the circumstances, every child has the right to be protected. Jawad Ullah, Member KP- NCRC cited that Pakistan’s population is projected to be 227 million by 2025, out of which 63% will be below age 30 years. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) – settled districts – constitute 14.49% of the total country’s population as per the 2017 census whereas Ex-FATA (Newly Merged Districts) consists of 2.41%. Children, both girls and boys, are vulnerable to myriad forms of neglect, violence, abuse and exploitations in the province.

In view of various child protection challenges in Pakistan, NCRC has issued policy briefs on major areas namely child marriages, child domestic labour and street children. The policy briefs examine the issues of vulnerable children from a legal perspective primarily focusing on prevailing laws and enforcement mechanisms. Furthermore, they make recommendations to legislators, policy makers, government agencies and development practitioners to address these issues.

Highlighting the importance of child protection in Pakistan, Afshan Tehseen, and Chairperson of NCRC stressed that children are an essential segment of our society and education and a safe environment is their basic right. We need to create safe spaces for children not just in schools but also in other settings. She also explained the critical role played by the Commission in addressing all means of child exploitation and what can be done for protecting the rights of children. She further stressed on the need for addressing loopholes in the existing laws for children at the federal and provincial level. The Commission has played an important role in handling about 267 complaints on child rights’ violations giving direct relief. She further highlighted that many laws still lack implementation mechanisms and rules and the Commission is following them up with concerned departments at federal and provincial level.

Sohail from UNICEF shared the findings of KAP (Knowledge, attitudes and Practices’) survey on Child Labour, Violent Discipline and Child Marriages. Sharing the KAP findings and response from parents and children she highlighted that in Pakistan more than 12.5 million children, nearly 16% of the child population are known to be involved in child labour, with 13% to 14% of these children being aged 5 to 17 years.

The Chief Guest Arshad Khan- Ex-Secretary Education KP, and Secretary to Government, Information and Public Relation, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa highlighted key issues being faced by children and said that in KP they have established educational infrastructure, both in merged and settle districts, but the challenge is low enrollment and high dropout rate of approximately 71 million children between the age of 5 & 6. He appreciated the efforts of NCRC and stressed that the role of community specifically parents and media are really important.

Dr. Riffat Sardar, Chairperson, Commission on the Status of Women remarked that every journey starts with little steps and awareness is the key to success. She spoke on key points of child marriages and stressed that no bill is being passed by the provincial assembly KP on this issue. Stereotyping is a bottleneck to resolve this violation of early child marriages and, awareness rising campaign is the only solution to protect Children.

Irfan Khan, Director Labour and Man Power discussed the role and efforts of the institution to eliminate child labour from Pakistan. He mentioned that there are about 1.5 million child labours in KP and it is the government’s priority to gradually eradicate of child labour through integration of policies and mainstreaming the issues. He added that Child Labour laws in KP are being implemented by Labour Inspectors.

Ijaz Muhammad Khan, Acting Chief KP Child Protection & Welfare Commission shared his remarks on the Child Protection System in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, by saying that the commission is striving hard for effective supervision and coordination of child rights matters at provincial and local level. Child protection committees have been formed with referral mechanisms and networking in all districts.

Source: Business Recorder