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At the twentieth anniversary of the CRC, Sindh pledges to protect the rights of the child with renewed vigour

© UNICEF/Pak2009/Sami
One of the sketches displayed at the art exhibition during the CRC@20 event in Karachi

By A. Sami Malik

On 20 November 2009, the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) brought together the political leadership, civil society, national and international development organisations, teachers and children in Sindh, Pakistan to pledge their commitment to protecting the rights of children and to develop an environment conducive for their development. 

In a day-long ceremony held in the provincial capital, Karachi, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the CRC, children from thirty seven educational institutions got an opportunity to express their views, concerns, hopes and aspirations in the presence of their parents and teachers and policymakers. The event was collaboratively organised by the Social Welfare Ministry of Sindh, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Society for International Education (SIE) and the iEARN-Pakistan. 

“Children in third world countries face poverty, abuse, forced labour and lack of growth opportunities but children’s worst enemy is illiteracy,” says Yuma Siddiqui of the City School

Declamation Contest
In a declamation contest held during the ceremony, young speakers discussed the principles of the CRC and their practical manifestation within day-to-day life. They emphasised children’s right to expression and opportunities to grow to their full potential through access to basic health, quality education and recreation. 

“Education is the basic right of every child. When education is denied, children remain ignorant of their rights which leads to their exploitation. Extremists are today exploiting ignorant children by using them in suicidal attacks. I believe that if children are educated today, they will take the responsibility tomorrow to ensure a better future for our country,” said Rabya Jawaid of St. Joseph’s Convent School, Karachi.

Yuma Siddiqui of the City School said, “Children in third world countries face poverty, abuse, forced labour and lack of growth opportunities but children’s worst enemy is illiteracy.”

Sindh is one of Pakistan’s four provinces and Karachi, the provincial capital, is the country’s largest city and port. One out of ten children in Sindh die before the age of five, and only a third of girls are enrolled in school. In Pakistan as a whole, three-quarters of children report punishment at school and at home. In this situation, it is essential to enforce the CRC including ensuring that provincial laws are in place and enforced to protect child rights, and that government officials, teachers, parents, religious leaders and children themselves are aware of their rights and duties.

© UNICEF/Pak2009/Sami
Sindh Minister for Social Welfare, Nargis N.D Khan speaking on the occassion

Art Exhibition
In an impressive art exhibition which focused on child rights, abuse, exploitation and determination to make the world a better place for children, young artists expressed views through paintings and sketches depicting their fears and hopes in a subtle and creative manner.

By signing the CRC in 1989 and ratifying it the following year, the Government of Pakistan came fully onboard with the United Nations in recognising the rights of children and implementing them with punitive authority. Laws were enacted for child protection and the process of making them more stringent and judicious, continues. In line with the Federation, the provincial governments also committed themselves to protect the basic rights of children.  On the twentieth anniversary of the CRC, the Government of Sindh reaffirmed that commitment.

“This pledge shows a commitment to create a better world for children,” said Andro Shilakadze, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Sindh. “We pledge to remain vigilant in our daily lives and speaking up when we see a child’s rights violated. At home, at school, at work or on the street, it is the duty of adults to make sure that children are safe. Even at home or at school, we must use only positive ways to discipline children without hitting or scolding them.”

Political Committment
The Sindh Minister for Social Welfare, Nargis N.D. Khan expressed unequivocal support to children. “Today we reaffirm our pledge for the welfare, protection and development of children and will help them to become useful citizens of this country as well as productive members of the global village,” she said. “The twentieth anniversary of the CRC is an inspiration to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights and translated them into actions that will build A World Fit for Children.”

As a key partner to the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF has been the driving force behind advocating child rights in the country for 61 years. It continues to support the concerned ministries and departments including the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD) in reviewing the existing laws protecting children against abuse and exploitation. It has supported the Government in developing the National Child Protection Policy and the Child Protection Bill which are currently under submission to the Federal Cabinet and the Parliament, respectively. In Sindh, the bill for child protection is being drafted and will soon be submitted to the Provincial Assembly for legislation.    

The Pledge
The anniversary event culminated with a group pledge to take action to promote and protect the rights of children and put their interest first in all actions concerning them.

“This pledge shows a commitment to create a better world for children,” said Andro Shilakadze, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Sindh. “We pledge to remain vigilant in our daily lives and speaking up when we see a child’s rights violated. At home, at school, at work or on the street, it is the duty of adults to make sure that children are safe. Even at home or at school, we must use only positive ways to discipline children without hitting or scolding them.”

 

 

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