LAHORE: Millions of children are robbed of their childhood and are made to work, sometimes very dangerous jobs, in our country. The number of child labourers in Pakistan is estimated to be around 10 million, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics, which is an alarming figure and what is more alarming is that the number is fast increasing.
As a result of deterioration of socio-economic system and law and order, child labour has increased and emerged as a serious problem. The law of the land is very clear in this regard as constitution’s Article 11 (3) states: “No child below the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.”
Similarly, Article 25(A) clearly states: “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as determined by law” while Article 37(e) states: “The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that women and children are not employed in vacations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment.”
The Employment of Children Act, 1991, and the Employment of Children Rules, 1995, exclusively deal with the subject of child labour.
Despite presence of these laws, child labour is an increasing problem for the country and many children have to earn a living for their families and for them themselves by working long hours and taking up the risk of dangerous jobs.
Children are our future but child labour is jeopardising the future of the country. Many things are needed to eliminate this evil practice, including poverty alleviation, education, advocacy campaigns and media awareness campaigns.
No single institution, be it a government department, a non-government organisation (NGO) or the media, can tackle this issue single-handedly and concerted effort by all of the stakeholders and society as a whole are need of the hour.
Undoubtedly, the media can help curb this inhumane practice through educating the people. As one of the basic roles of the media is to educate the masses about key issues that society faces, the media has a duty to highlight the plight of children, who have to work instead of going to school.
Our media has not remained successful in addressing various social issues, in which child labour is the most neglected area.
Unfortunately, Pakistani media’s agenda appears to be politically oriented; even the entertainment provided to consumers is based on politics.
Recently, a high-power committee constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a consultative conference on media’s code of conduct where this scribe had suggested that a percentage of daily media contents be fixed for development communication. And spreading awareness is perhaps the most required development communication in Pakistan.
Our media has no indigenous entertainment for children; all we get are Hindi-dubbed cartoon channels.
By using the powerful medium of the media, child labour issue can be overcome and its hazardous effects can be communicated to the masses. The media can tell people about the negative impact of such evils and how it affects the next generation of the country.
Though our media has highlighted child labour through reporting different cases, more is required to be done in this connection.
Media converge of activities only on the eve of international days or covering the events held in connection with world days is not enough and we have to make consistent and concerted efforts. For this, we need to sensitise reporters, copy editors, news editors and editors of newspapers and different tiers of TV channels from a reporter to bureau chief and policymakers. It is the media that can give a wake-up call to society and unite all of stakeholders. A good approach would be to get a joint campaign launched by all of stakeholders, including media groups, government, NGOs children and their parents.
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