Poverty pushes children to work and I witnessed this when I entered Shantinagar that is known as the land of child labor. It was heartbreaking when I got to know that children work day and night to support their families with the minimum wage of Rs.50 per day. Carrying heavy bricks or baskets full of stones, mending shoes, working in houses and factories or any other work that can get them money is done by children of Shantinagar.
Children in Shantinagar are not lucky enough to enjoy their innocence phase. Many of them have to work for their living and some of them are forced to work under miserable conditions. Zubair, Fareeda and Salema were three siblings who were working for themselves, their parents had died. Zubair being the elder one works hard and wants his younger siblings to study but they do not agree on going to school without their elder brother. So, they also work by carrying the heavy baskets on their head filled with stones. Another bitter reality that made me more upset was when I got to know children often collect litter to earn a few coins on daily basis to fulfil the needs of their family.
Passing through one of the streets of Shantinagar, a little angel who was 10 years old said that “I have been manipulated here to work even cleaning up toilets of nearby schools or bungalows regardless of my fundamental rights”.
Due to the high ratio of poverty and lack of schooling opportunities, child labour is prevalent in Pakistan. Children are employed in factories, industries, restaurants, tea stalls, mining, dhabas and even as domestic workers. Though there are many laws that prohibit child labour but still child labour is common and Shantinagar is the example in this case.
The situation in Shantinagar made my heart wrench where thousands of children are strangers to the childhood joys and are forced to work under slavery conditions. Child labour is increasing in the world day by day. Children work for hours and get a minimum pay of Rs.50 to 250. The work that many of them do is more of a risk to their lives. There are approximately 8.52 million home-based workers, according to the official National Policy on Home-Based Workers. From a survey, it was found that more than 25% people are below the poverty line which causes a serious privation of essentials and children are forced to do the struggle in the early age.
The persistence of child labour is due to the inefficiency of child labour laws and exploitative inclinations. The government needs to take initiatives through reformation in the education sector by offering free education to children who cannot afford the expenses and providing the other basic facilities to deserving families so their children can get an education. We as responsible citizens of Pakistan should also take initiative by joining hands together and working for such children so that they can have a brighter future.