NCRC asked to ensure protection of child rights in its strategic plan

KARACHI: Stakeholders, including officials from government departments, police, prisons, independent institutions and civil society have asked the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) to include children’s voices and other child-specific genuine issues about child rights in its strategic plan.

They were speaking at a strategic planning consultative workshop held at a hotel here on Tuesday.

They underscored the need for strengthening and empowering the NCRC so that the commission can operate as an independent national human rights institution (NHRI) as required by the international standards known as Paris Principles.

NCRC chairperson Afshan Tehseen said, in her opening remarks, that children make up 48 per cent of the population, but their voices are not heard in the policymaking process. “There is hardly any law and policy to take care of an estimated 25 million out-of-school children, most of whom end up as street children,” she added.

She said that children are the most important asset of any society and needed attention at all levels, including policymaking. “It is important to ensure genuine and meaningful participation of children.”

‘There is hardly any law or policy to take care of an estimated 25m out-of-school children’

Shamim Mumtaz, chairperson, Sindh Child Protection Authority, said that overlapping in the authority and duplication of functions of various child rights-related institutions needed to be addressed. She highlighted various steps of the Sindh government related to child rights, including the passage of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013.

Other stakeholders suggested that the NCRC should address child rights concerns such as child labour, child marriages, child sexual abuse and discrimination in education on a priority basis. They also demanded increase in the education budget at least to the committed four per cent of gross domestic product.

They stressed that the NCRC, if empowered, can uplift the country’s image at the international level by taking care of the protection and promotion of child rights in the country.

The NCRC should also maintain a national database on child rights-related indicators and share them with various stakeholders for informed policy decisions.

They also demanded the establishment of a national helpline for ensuring timely assistance to child victims of abuse.

Iqbal Detho and Jehanzeb Khan, members of the NCRC, also spoke. They said that the commission intended to focus on awareness-raising, review of child rights-related laws and provide assistance to the government in the implementation of international treaties, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Others who spoke included SSPs Shehla Qureshi and Imran Mirza; Special Secretary Law Imtiaz Shaikh; civil society leaders Mahnaz Rehman, Zahid Farooq, Tahir Iqbal and Rana Asif.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2021

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