You might have witnessed children selling books, flowers, handkerchiefs or cleaning vehicles. You also must have witnessed kids who are wandering around shopping centers and begging for money. You might have given a few rupees to these children at some point and said, “Sorry,” at other times.
But have you ever wondered who these children are and how they ended up in the streets?
It is very easy to condemn beggary. Overtime, our society has created many cliches to justify its disdain for beggars and beggary. I’m sure you all must have heard such phrases as, “Begging is a curse”; “Criminals are nourishing among the beggars” and “Child labour is a crime.”
While I don’t disagree with the fact that beggary – especially that involving children – needs to be eliminated in its entirety, I also don’t believe that our job ends at merely condemning the wrong without addressing its root causes.
Let’s try to understand what leads children into beggary and labour and how we can help to improve the situation.
How Beggary and Child Labour are Connected
The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and psychological development. Beggary, like any form of child labour also has these adverse effects on the well-being of children.
Needless to say, child labour and engagement in beggary prevents children from acquiring education, thus limiting their chances at a brighter future. Even if they do attend some form of schooling, these children find themselves succumbing under the pressure of maintaining school attendance with excessively long and heavy work load. Moreover, physical, psychological and sexual violence always remain constant risks in their already troubled childhoods.
Root Causes of Child Beggary and Child Labour
According to International Labour Organization (ILO), poverty is the primary cause of child labour. Poverty is also among the leading causes that contribute to street crime and other forms of juvenile deviance.
What Can We Do to Improve the Situation?
There is a lot that we, as common citizens can do to improve the situation vis-a-vis child labour.
Talk About Child Labour
For starters just talking about it with family, friends and co-workers can help. This directly feeds into creating awareness about the issue and making the people in our spheres of influence more conscious in their dealings with underprivileged children.
Similarly, social media platforms and internet are readily available tools to create awareness and inspire behaviour change.
Engage with the Government
Write letters to officials or government bodies (including local government officials in your area) to discuss your concerns regarding child labour.
You’ll be surprised at how letter writing campaigns in the past have forced governments to take prompt action.
Speak With the Caregivers and Children
Try to convince parents whose children are working that their vicious cycle of poverty will be broken only when their children are educated and gain a meaningful employment after growing up.
At the same time, counsel the children as well who are engaged in child labour.
Donate to prominent and credible NGOs or step-up a fund to ensure that every single child near you gets timely help to start or sustain his/her education.
Play your role to make Pakistan a country where every child gets education, health and a happy childhood. May our children witness the dawn of hope and dusk of exploitation.