Ensuring every child counts by counting every child

Preventing modern slavery and child labour in Pakistan

Tackling early marriage, child labour, force/bonded labour and trafficking requires a multi-pronged approach, where government commitment for policies, human resources and budget allocation underpins the effective implementation of the law. This is complimented by strong statutory bodies that monitor and use data to make better decisions.

Everyone has a role to play in creating an environment where all forms of exploitation are no longer tolerated.

Pakistan’s current and future generation of leaders are committed to change this. Pakistan has committed to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms under SDG 8.7.

There have been significant strides forward in the legislative and policy spheres:

  • Sindh — Labour Policy 2018 (significant higher protections for children)
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — Labour and Child Labour Policy 2018
  • Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2014 (raise age of marriage to 18 for male and female)
  • Gilgit-Baltistan Child Protection Act (strengthened excising welfare protections)
  • Balochistan Child Protection Act (protection from all forms of abuse and violence)

And we can see early evidence that policies and laws are being implemented. But, more needs to be done to improve the quality of evidence and how this translates into policy making, spending and action.

So, the new DFID AAWAZ II: Inclusion, Accountability, and Reducing Modern Slavery programme will:

  • enable communities to challenge the norms and practices which are holding them back while creating better access to services and protection
  • support stronger government institutions so that they can better protect vulnerable groups.

It is estimated that there are 60 million unregistered births in Pakistan with 1.6 million being added to this total every year. Without this critical document, children go unprotected, they are invisible to many services and people are located out of opportunities. Without this document it is not possible to tell what age a child at work is. Closing this gap is an important child protection issue and is vital if we want to address child labour.

By harnessing the potential that digital technology has to offer and the great partnerships that have been forged with UNICEF, the government, and the private sector, DFID is funding a pioneering digital birth registration programme. To better understand the scale of the challenge DFID is also funding a pioneering child labour survey which will be used to identify the children most at risk and support the government to strengthen protection.

Digital Birth Registration — Photo — Fiach

Last week I had the opportunity to visit this programme and see it in action. A temporary camp has been set up in Pakpattan, Punjab. The camp enabled birth registration to reach out in to communities and reduce the barriers which people might experience in traveling to register the birth of a child.

We met a new mum who had come to register the birth of her son who was almost three months old. She sat with the registrar in the stifling heat while he diligently took her details and plugged them in to the smartphone app which has been specifically designed to securely transmit the information to government using the network which is being provided by Telenor.

Sleepy sibling :) — Photo — Fiach

Within 20 minutes the process was complete, ensuring that this child will count because this child has been counted.

On our way back to Lahore you did not have to look far to be reminded of why this work is so important. Lining the road were dozens of brick-kilns. While it is estimated that the majority of child labour in Pakistan is agricultural, the brick-kilns also contribute significantly to statistics. Often entire families toil in bonded labour in the kilns. Driven in to servitude by poverty or the impact of the cost of unexpected medical costs.

Brick-Kiln on road from Pakpattan to Lahore — Photo — Fiach

You can find out more about how the AAWAZII programme is working in partnership with the United Nations, the government of Pakistan and civil society on the Development Tracker:

Further Information




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Fiach O'Broin-Molloy

Fiach O'Broin-Molloy

We are all innately social beings. We live in an increasingly populated and mobile environment.

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