Child Labour in Sindh

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Child labour is a pervasive issue in Sindh, Pakistan's southernmost province. According to the latest estimates, over 1.7 million children are engaged in child labour in Sindh, accounting for nearly 12% of the total child population.Child labour is the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful.

The causes of child labour are complex and multifaceted. They include poverty, lack of access to education, and social norms that perpetuate the practice. Children are often forced into child labour because their families are struggling to make ends meet. They may also be sent to work because their parents believe that it is the only way for them to learn valuable skills.

There are several factors contributing to the rise in child labor in Sindh. One of the most significant factors is poverty. Many families in Sindh are struggling to make ends meet, and they often send their children to work to supplement their income. Children are often seen working in hazardous conditions, such as brick kilns, agriculture, and domestic work.The lack of access to education is another major factor contributing to child labor in Sindh. Many children in Sindh do not have access to quality education, and they are often forced to drop out of school to work. This can have a devastating impact on their future prospects.

Cultural norms and social acceptance of child labor also play a role in its prevalence in Sindh. In some communities, child labor is seen as a way for children to learn valuable skills and contribute to their families' well-being. This can make it difficult to change attitudes towards child labor and to implement effective interventions. The consequences of child labor in Sindh are far-reaching and have a detrimental impact on children's physical and emotional health, education, and future opportunities.

Pakistan  has  faced  worst  situation  regarding child  labor  in  past.  As  per  1996  survey  40  million children among the ages of 5-14 years were engaged in  child  labor  and  that number  became country’s  30 percent of total population (Kazmi 2015). In Pakistan poverty ratio is high, 38.8 percent population lives in poverty  which  results  one  in  each  four  individuals lives with acute poverty (Rodriguez 2017). The main causes behind child labor in Pakistan include poverty, unemployment,  illiteracy  or  family  background  etc. The major form of child labor in Pakistan is domestic child  labor  but  common  forms  of  child  labor  also include working  in agriculture, factories,  local labor, working on hotels or begging profession also. As the poverty is  global issue;  affecting various  developing countries in the world. Pakistan is one of the countries in  South  Asia  with  millions  of  people  living  in extreme poverty.

In  backward  areas  of  Sindh  province  the bonded  labor  in  agriculture  sector  and debt  slavery possess  a  vast  history.  As  per  the  figures  of  some human rights groups,  the landlords kept almost 4500 bonded  laborers  in  Sindh  province.  As  per  other   sector  where  child  labor  is  found  is Sindh is Carpet weaving  sector.there is  a large number  of children  working  in agriculture  sector in Sindh especially at Hyderabad District, the one of the major  reasons  behind  this,  is  poverty that  does  not allow their parents to send children to schools. Parents are not more interested to send their children to school due to poor economic conditions; they prefer to send children  to  work  in  agriculture  sector  to  earn something  and  to  support  families.

Sindh has enacted various laws to protect the rights of children including the Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 2015 and the Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017.Article 11.3 of the Constitution of Pakistan says " No child below the age of fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment."The children under the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any public or private industrial undertaking containing  process  dangerous to life, health or moral of children under the provisions of the said laws.

The government is good at introducing laws but worst at implementing the same," the statement said, adding that there are a number of laws in the province, but all in vain. "Sindh Tenancy Act, 1950, the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act, 2011, the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013, the Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 2015, and Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017 give protection to children, but implementation of the law has been a distant dream as children are engaged in the worst forms of child labour .

Effective enforcement of existing child labor laws and policies is also crucial to combat child labor in Sindh. The government should work closely with employers and labor unions to ensure that child labor is not tolerated and that children are not exploited.Investing in education and social protection programs can also help to reduce the incidence of child labor in Sindh. By providing children with access to quality education and by providing families with the support they need, we can help to break the cycle of poverty and child labor.

Raising awareness about the harmful effects of child labor is also important. This can be done through public awareness campaigns, community outreach programs, and education programs for children and parents.

Eradicating child labor in Sindh is a complex challenge, but it is one that must be addressed with urgency and determination. By working together, we can create a future for Sindh's children where they are free from exploitation and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Fareheen Sherwani

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