Opinion by Mir Safyan Khilji
Child labor has number of definitions and different people have different concepts about the issue. However according to International Labor Organization “Child labor refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.” This practice is no doubt harmful and is considered exploitative by many individuals, national and international organizations working on human rights and child rights.
The problem of child labor is deeply rooted and it’s not as simple as our governments and responsible departments are taking it. Many of the government and non-governmental organizations are spending a large amount of money over campaigns and political advocacy and awareness sessions for the purpose to have more laws and policies for prevention of such practices but the problem of child labor is much more complex and deeply entrenched in poverty and inequitable economic systems and distributions of resources and opportunities among the different classes, especially in under developing countries.
These under developing countries are the most active in signing and ratifying international treaties and conventions about Human rights, child rights or any issue but they only document these policies and legislations, there is never a lay out present for implementing and using these policies and laws as tools for vanishing major rising issues and threats to human life and their basic rights.
Unfortunately, the governments in such countries are never answerable to anyone, they are very much confident in carrying out their self-entertaining activities and robbing the nation and its coming generation of their basic rights, physical, mental and intellectual health of children are taken for granted in such nations. The common man is intentionally indulged in issues related to basic survival and they never care about such unmarked and invisible issue like child labor, or what their children are suffering for becoming an income generating source, how they are misused, abused and exploited. What they need is two times food, they are striving for it and they can take any step for that.
In many of the researches and studies we can find that the reasons for this issue is higher poverty and illiteracy, both are correlated but the basic issue in our areas is not illiteracy, it is directly connected with poverty and unfair economic systems. What we have seen from the last so many decades is that everything is changing around here but not the lifestyle of poor man working on daily wedges or laboring in the farms and fields of any feudal. At times one can realize that these class systems and practices are kept intentionally to suppress the poor and never let them raise their voice or at least to give basic rights to their coming generations. In such systems, the existence of ruling class, feudal, industrialists and all those enjoying the privileges is upon the poor, those who are stuck to survive only. The elected members of parliaments are same people, the legislatives bodies, and all decisive powers in are in the hands of same class, and they never feel bad to have laws or policies for the uplift of common man but when it comes implementation and change in the system, they are mentally never ready for such steps, if it happens everything will change and they will never be able to have everything they have been enjoying since ages.
Normally we hear on many platforms that there is lack of awareness and resources within the government bodies for implementation of such laws or measure which can eliminate or at-least overcome these issues, but basically the issue is not lack of awareness, it is in-fact the lack of interest. If we go back to history and find those countries which have not eliminated but somehow got control over major problems like Child labor, they have not done that through the government institutions or departments but the individuals, non-governmental sector, including NGOS, CSOs and many more with different titles have together reached to a solution and their efforts did not take place at once, it also took ages to see a prominent and visible change and their work was based on some practical measures, they reached far off corners and themselves started with their cause. Suppose if they wanted to start with an institution to polish the skill of children and make them earn and learn, they would open those institutes with very basic requirements, they didn’t wait for large funds from donors and support from other sources, the only source would be their devotion and commitment.
In under developing countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan social sector or development sector started with service delivery, their main focus would be to provide any kind of facility to those who were in need or to spread awareness or educate the cut off and isolated communities practically, but in the last few years their concept has been changed, they are now much involved in lobbying and running after having more laws and policies, they are spending huge amounts of funds on seminars, workshops in the most expensive hotels and having Hi-teas, dinners and some national and international cuisines. At times one can feel being in a party with some pretty women and the fragrances of perfumes can make you feel at beauty salon or a cosmetics store. Anyhow, criticizing them is not an option left, they are now in majority and they are called the social workers, human rights defenders, and whatever they may be called but they are acknowledged for their cosmetic activities.
In the present scenario our youth is politically highly motivated, they have access to national, international forums and have influence and are most often used as pressure groups by different political parties, but I wonder why don’t they realize that this youth can be multiplied in case if the rest of children are given proper education, standard life, basic rights and their skills are nourished. When we talk of illiteracy as a cause of child labor or deprivation of children from other basic and primary rights, that is second priority, as mentioned earlier that these kids are the only income generating sources of their families, every parent has a wish to see their kids in a better condition than they have been living themselves, it’s a natural phenomenon but the question is how to provide them those circumstances for nourishment and brought up? Does the answer lie in providing economic aid to these families and marginalized communities? I think that has been happening from the last so many decades, but the actual problem is that economic aid, the charity that has been given to these people and that results only in mental and physical dependency, today the only purpose they have to live for is to get aid from anywhere for living and fulfilling their needs and this what the big organizations are doing, they are availing bigger funds and distributing just a small portion of that in these communities.
Unfortunately this” Khairaat Culture” has mentally and physically paralyzed our nation, not only those who are victimized by the unfair economic systems and unjust society but also those who have been working in the name of social uplift. What we really need is not the economic aid but mapping out some practical steps for the elimination of poverty and dependency on others in the time of need and struggle. To come out of the shell our people does not need only documented policies and laws, ratifying national and international treaties but they arein need of sincere guidelines, skill development and motivation.
A number of organizations are working on child enrollment in schools, free and compulsory education and awareness among different communities to send their children to school, to educate them but how many of them have looked at the other aspect of life, that these children are out of school for a reason, if they are working in workshops, hotels, and a number of places where they are abused in different manners, that is not because they have chosen that life or their parents want it for them, but these are the circumstances pushing them into these dark caves where they can hardly breathe and look around for a way out.
I will go back to history, Booker Taliaferro Washington was an African-American educator, author and also known for establishing vocational schools to help the black people and other minorities to pull themselves up as a race. His educational philosophies stresses on combining academic subjects with learning skills. In his established institutes children would work, normally in bricks making and by the money earned they would get education, accommodation and hygienic food and a part of their earning would be sent to their families, because they depended on the same children for living. In some reviews such philosophies are even called skill for education, skill for living. Booker T Washington lived between 1856 and 1915 but his work and others of his type have given the real push to African -Americans in the time when they were buried in poverty and misfortune. Such struggle recalls of a proverb “Your life is what you make it”.
Our present situation is no less than African-Americans had back in 18th century but we hardly realize it. For finding an ever ending solution or at-least control over poverty and violation of basic human rights and child rights specifically, we need to follow the philosophers and mentors like Booker T Washington, we have to come out of the scented meeting halls and have to establish such vocational institutes, polish skill of our coming generations and make them earn and learn with their own skills instead of addicting them and depending them on alms, charities and the leftover of international donations that our government and non-government sector annually gets in the name of Human rights and development.