SPARC making efforts to seek a world in which children are valued and empowered

Sajjad Cheema, Executive Director SPARC. Picture: The Dayspring

Sajjad Cheema
Executive Director of SPARC talks about Child Rights in Pakistan

The Dayspring managed to talk Sajjad Cheema – Executive Director of SPARC to know about the situtation of Child Rights in Pakistan. Mr Sajjad gives a deep insight about projects of SPARC and input of the organisation at policy making regarding Child Rights in Pakistan.

He discusses as – Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 12, 1990 and the successive governments have renewed their commitment to creating friendly environment for all Pakistani children. Unfortunately, huge challenges remain for them in the country. In Pakistan, there are many such laws implemented time to time to facilitate a life to the children which they deserve. Question is what is the most important birth right of a child? Simple that is Education. For a living, every born child must understand the way to earn “food, clothes and shelter”. Children must learn from initial stage in order to become a responsible citizen or somehow learn to earn for future. There are laws regarding child education but unfortunately these laws have not been fully implemented. While Article 25A of the constitution clearly states that it is the responsibility of the government to support free education for every child from the age 1-16 years. The Punjab Compulsory Education Act, 1994 also serves the purpose. Education is a birth right of all children. We can’t snatch that from them. But in Pakistan, the illiteracy rate is very high. People prefer to make children earn from the early stages to raise their family by earning but again the question comes that why? Answer is again simple, what other options do they have sighting the current inflation rate, but it is not money every time, sometimes it happens just because of unawareness and illiteracy. Article 11 of the constitution clearly states that child labour is not allowed and Restriction of child labour act 1890 also support the matter. While there is also an act employment of children rules 1995 that states some rules regarding child labour. Education and labour are not the only issues a child is born with. Early child marriage is another issue being faced by Pakistani children in certain areas of the countries. This mal practice is engraved in certain sections of our society. Children are forced to commit themselves in a relationship they don’t even understand. To stop such violence, the Child Marriage Restraint Ordinance 1971 was introduced. Now-a-days children need to understand what is going around them and to have enough knowledge of their basic rights. A trend of child abuse is also establishing its roots in our society. It is not a shame to discuss such matters with them but this is for their own safety. Laws against child abuse are also there. Awareness about their health, education, and life is a right of them. The Child Nutrition Act 2002 serves the purpose in this regard. A healthy surrounding is made by the healthy mind, bodies and souls. So our surroundings will be made by the children, their protection is our duty and obligation. Their innocence, honesty, childhood and upbringing must be protected in order to make them a better citizen and to secure the future of our coming generations.

Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) in Pakistan is an independent –non-government organization formed with the aim of promoting and protecting child rights with a focus on child labour, juvenile justice, violence against children, and their education and health. SPARC’s work is guided by the international human rights principles and standards which are integrated at the policy and program level, including the UNCRC and the relevant ILO Conventions. It is SPARC’s belief that child rights are human rights. SPARC works at the national level, with offices in several major cities, and is a part of prominent regional networks including Forum Asia and South Asia initiative to End Violence against Children.

On global level, SPARC has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). In 2003, SPARC received the United Nations Recognition Award for its work in highlighting the plight of Children and promoting the rights of children in Pakistan. In 2006, SPARC received USAID certification under the USAID Institutional Management Certification Program (IMCP). Furthermore, SPARC received certification by the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy in 2015. SPARC is also an active member of Pakistan Coalition for International Criminal Court Rights Movement (CRM) on national level.
The SPARC’s vision is to seek a world in which children are valued and empowered and their rights; promoted and protected. Its mission is to promote and protect the rights of children and to empower them through advocacy supported by research awareness-raising, service delivery, and human and institutional development.

Child Rights Movement (CRM)
SPARC is the national secretariat for Child Rights Movement (CRM)- a group of civil society organizations which a mission to create enabling environment for children through advocacy. SPARC works to to develop better understanding of NGOs/ CSOs on the UN human rights monitoring process; engagement of CRM with elected representatives to advocate for the development of child related laws and policies. It engages with educational institutes and engages children (through children clubs meetings). Media is mobilized t to highlight the need of relevant legislation and measures.

Training Unit in Promotion and Protection of Child Rights
The vision will be achieved by continuously designing and providing training to child rights activists, law enforcing agents, educationalists, children, parents, community members, government and non government officials and stake holders; particularly those who are directly in touch with children. The effort will make them effective promoters and protectors of child rights in Pakistan; devoted to, and proud of being advocates for child protection. We are also committed to creating, and developing training materials, guidelines, and other operating procedures that will inspire and empower them to become better activists.

SPARC’s Centers for Street Children
Centers for Street Children in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar and Hyderabad provide a child friendly environment where the disadvantaged children come in for a few hours every day, learn new skills, acquire education, spend leisure time and have access to food, clean water and sanitation facilities. The strategy revolves around ways to attract more street children, motivate them, win trust of their parents and equip them with skills to meet their essential needs.

Supporting the Unreached or Marginalised girls in remote areas in Pakistan to develop relevant skills that will lead to livelihoods
SPARC uses available and affordable technologies to develop and deliver skills training to 12,000 women and girls (over a two year period with 6,000 in year 1 and another 6,000 in year 20 in selected districts of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Community mobilisation – CRCs to be made community based intervention.
SPARC looks up to likeminded organizations in supporting the cause of child rights volunteers across 54 districts of Pakistan
Sustain SPARC contribution as principal Child Rights Organization: SOPC, training, research and Resource Center on Child Rights and Child Protection
The report from the last two decades has been systematically documenting the evolution of child protection laws, social attitudes and key developments, with an annual overview of the state of child rights in Pakistan. This includes detailed figures on the state of education, health, juvenile justice, violence against children and child labor across Pakistan.

All children in the world have special rights and they need their rights to be protected in all respects without any prejudice in any way. This is necessary to ensure their well-being, successful development and their rights. Not only parents, but all governments and state institutions have duty to create a child friendly environment and to promote children’s rights in order to ensure our future. Two key events anchored the worldwide commitments to promote children’s rights at the international agenda, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights on the Child set out a number of children’s rights including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to a family life. He children need to be protected from violence and against all types of discrimination.

There are millions of children in various parts of the world who are facing violence and discrimination. Children are used as labourers in some countries, immersed in armed conflict, living on the streets, suffering by differences be it religion, minority issues or disabilities. Children feeling the effects of war can be displaced because of the armed conflict and may suffer physical and psychological trauma.