This letter is to put light on a very serious and highly neglected issue in our society which is “Child Labor”.
For me, it is heart-wrenching to watch little souls selling masks, tissues, pens and begging for basic needs at our university.
The place where all of us who are over 18 years of age, are carefree, getting a quality education and enjoying our lives to the fullest. Meanwhile little hands aged 7-10 years serve plates in front of us as waiters.
There are approximately 22.8 million children out of school in Pakistan and 90% of them are victims of child labor. When children are forced to work, they are often unable to attend school and are deprived of the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge they need to break the cycle of poverty and build better lives for themselves and their families.
Child labor not only deprives children of their childhood and the opportunity to get education, but it also exposes them to serious risks to their physical and mental health. Yes, they are physically abused by the wild beasts around us and their carefree childhood is at high risk in the hours in which they are yearning for basic needs without any supervision.
Children who work long hours in dangerous conditions are at risk of injury, illness, and even death.
These innocent souls have equal rights to get all those facilities which are provided to any child born in a well-off family. Unfortunately, it is normal to the extent in our society that we don’t even realize the darkness of this crime. Despite laws and policies to protect children from Labor exploitation, the problem persists, with millions of children being forced to work in hazardous conditions, often for little or no pay.
The root cause of child labor in Pakistan is poverty. Many families are unable to make ends meet and are forced to send their children to work for survival. However, there are also cases where children are trafficked or sold into labor by unscrupulous individuals or Organizations.
I urge the government of Pakistan to take a strong stand against child labor and to invest in programs and policies that will address the root causes of poverty and provide children with the opportunity for education.
I also call on the international community to support the efforts of Pakistan to combat child labour and to help ensure that children in Pakistan have the opportunity to grow up safe, healthy, and educated.
(Areeba is a student of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.)