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25th Anniversary of UNC on the Rights of the Child- Universal Children Day

It is heartening to note that Pakistan joins the international community today in celebration of the 25 years of the adaption of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child. November 20 is Universal Children’s Day, a day devoted to observe the welfare of the world’s children. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, children are still denied fundamental human rights. Children suffer from corporal punishment in homes and schools, are denied access to schooling, are forced to join violent militias, and endure a host of other atrocities that clearly violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international human rights treaties. One issue that has received attention in the past few months is that of child labor.

According to the 2012 State of Pakistan’s Children report released by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), 25 million children are out of school, 12 million are engaged in labor while around 618 newborn babies die every day in the country. No wonder then that SPARC has termed the state of children in Pakistan “dismal” and “deteriorating”.

The situation is eye-opener for the government as well as the people of this country. Childhood is usually referred to as a “carefree” and “fun” phase by most of us but these children who are not getting any education, who are either dying of malnourishment or who are constantly ill due to lack of basic facilities, who lose their innocence and their childhood because of child labor, will never be able to refer to their childhood as anything but traumatic.

These children see a very different childhood if that is what it can be called  because of their living conditions; they go through child abuse at a very young age, they are discriminated against and they have no protection from society. It is evident that the state of child rights in the country is deplorable, to say the least.

Thankfully, there does seem to be some movement on these issues. Kailash Satyarthi, co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prizes (with Malala Yousefzai), founded the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, which has raided factories across India, freeing more than 40,000 bonded laborers. Many of the workers were children who lived under armed guard.

Nearly 25 years ago, the world made a promise to children: that we would do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential. In spite of the overall gains, there are many children who have fallen even further behind. Old challenges have combined with new problems to deprive many children of their rights and the benefits of development.

To meet these challenges, and to reach those children who are hardest to reach, we need new ways of thinking and new ways of doing – for adults and children.

There is much to celebrate as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention, from declining infant mortality to rising school enrollment, but this historic milestone must also serve as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. Too many children still do not enjoy their full rights on par with their peers.

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