Child labour in Balochistan

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Photos and narration by Matiullah Achakzai,

: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Abdul Hakeem (in black, at the right) and his friend Qudratullah in the border city of Chaman in Balochistan. A student of class two, Hakim and his friend ply their wheelbarrows after the school to carry goods and belongings for people crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman. Hakim makes Rs 200 ($2) every day. “”When I get back home, I give the money to my father,”” says Hakeem, whose father also works as a day labourer. Child labour in Balochistan, the poorest of the four provinces in Pakistan is “alarming, according to Dr. Ruqia Hashmi, a member of the Provincial Assembly Balochistan, where more and more children resort to physical and manual labour due to poverty and lack of education facilities. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiulah Achakzai

Izattullah, 8, spends the day working on a carpet loom in Chaman, making Rs 30 ($ 0.3) a day. It takes three to four children to complete a carpet in one month, when each gets Rs 2000 ($20) for a finished product. In June 2014, the Pakistan government raised the minimum wage from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 per month for unskilled workers. The provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa follow the same, whereas in Sindh province the minimum wage is Rs. 11,000 per month. The Balochistan province has retained its earlier minimum wage of Rs. 9,000 (announced in 2012). Izatullah works to support his family. He does not want to go to school saying it is a “waste of time.” “Even if go to school and learn, I will have to have someone to secure me a job despite qualification”, he says. “We are a poor family. We do not have anyone influential. We only have us to look after ourselves. ”Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan

: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
A young boy selling papadums to spectators at a football tournament in Chaman. A papadum costs Rs 15 ($ 0.15) and the children selling them get a commission of Rs 5 ($ 0.05) for each unit sold. There are thousands of children employed as labour in various business enterprises, auto-mechanic workshops and shopping malls in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, where according to Society for Empowering Human Resources (SEHER), a non-government organization working on child rights in Quetta, more than 10,000 children are working as labour. Of these, 60 percent are scavengers, says Hafiz Rehmat, a programme officer at SEHER. While credible figures are hard to come by in a non-documented society like Balochistan’s – Pakistan’s largest province with smallest population – SEHER says the number of child labour in the province is close to 30,000. “They mostly work in brick-kilns, coal mines, restaurants, the agriculture sector, chromite mines and as scavengers,” says Rehmat.Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
A little boy working in a confectionary shop in Chaman. According to a 2014 paper on the situation of child labour in the country released by the Society for Protection of the Rights of Children (SPARC), “Apart from economic exploitation, child domestic workers are often exposed to cruel and unsafe working environments where they are frequently subjected to physical and psychological violence. In this regard, it is very common for employers to delay a child domestic laborer’s monthly pay or prevent him/her from visiting his/her parents and family. Furthermore, underage workers in homes are often subjected to sexual and physical abuse in which both adults and children emerge as perpetrators. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
A boy in Chaman with a wheelbarrow loaded with fruit crate. Wheelbarrow kids supply fruit from the city fruit market to the bazaar for Rs 50 ($0.5) and each boy gets to make 4 to 7 trips per day.Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Local and Afghan refugee children in the Chaman Bazaar, sitting in a Bazaar street in Chaman, waiting for customers to come along. After the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, child labour has become a provincial subject. However, the province has yet to pass a legislation banning child labour. A Child Labour Amendment Bill 2014, currently under consultation at the provincial level, has yet to see the light of day. According to SPARC, “The Bill is less stringent (than its proposed provincial counterparts) with regards to comprehensively banning the employment of children (14 years and below) in all forms and manifestations. It is important that the proposed Bill be amended to comprehensively ban the employment of children who are 14 years of age or below.” Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Children in uniform rushing to school in the city of Chaman. The government in Balochistan that aspires to universal education for children has allocated 24 percent of its budget to child education. Article 25(A) of the constitution requires the government to provide free and compulsory education to children between the age of 5 to 16. At least 66% of children in Balochistan, between the ages of five and 16, do not go to school, according to Alif Ailaan, , a non-profit organisation working on education in the province. The dropout rate in the province is alarming – some 57 percent of children leave school without completing their education at the primary level. Children that dropout of school or have no access to education usually end up in the labour market. The National Child Labour survey conducted in 1996 by the Federal Bureau of Statistics revealed that “One-third of the working children are literate, which shows that mere completion of primary education is not an effective deterrent to child labour. School enrolment indicates that economically active children who are not enrolled in school (34.2 per cent) are higher than economically active children combined with school (13.2 per cent).” Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan

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