Lyari Girls Café marches to celebrate Universal Children’s Day

KARACHI: Lyari Girls Café organised a walk on Saturday in relation to the Universal Children’s Day which is celebrated world over on November 20. The theme of the walk was ‘Hame Parhna Hai; Hame Barhna Hai’ [We want to study; we want to move ahead]. Participants highlighted the rights of children and called for the government to effectively implement education rights and children-specific laws which are already legislated in the country.

Children from Lyari along with their parents, civil society members and others participated in the walk led by a young activist, Zulekha Dawood, and Lyari Girls Café Ambassador Naila Isha. They held banners and placards highlighting their concerns and walked from Moulvi Tamizuddin Khan Road, Lalazar to the Port Grand Park, West Wharf.

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Speaking on the occasion, Dawood stressed the need for structured and strengthened coordination among relevant government departments, key stakeholders in the promotion and protection of children’s rights, to achieve positive results in the programmes initiated by them. According to Dawood, about 24% of the country’s population is below the poverty line and children are the first victims of poverty as they are deprived of education, have poor access to sports and healthy activities and lack basic health facilities.

Isha, in her address to the attendees, said that free education is the right of every child but only 71% of children in Pakistan attend primary school, which means that 23 million children are deprived of education. She urged the media to support children’s rights campaigns and called for the government to include child laws in the education curricula.

Isha also spoke on how climate change impacts children’s access to water, food and healthcare and stressed that the government needs to address human rights consequences of climate change. According to Isha, children from indigenous communities are often particularly vulnerable because their culture and livelihood is tied to the land. She said that such marginalised groups typically lack the resources and government support needed to respond to the effects of climate change.

Referring to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, Isha said that it defines strong child rights protections relating to the environment and that Universal Children’s Day links the children’s right to the highest attainable standard of health, including the right to nutritious food and safe drinking water as well as issues of environmental pollution. Isha added that children are vulnerable to violence, discrimination, stigmatisation, abuse, forced begging and lack education and access to basic services. “We are taking a number of steps to boost the number of primary school children walking to school, including supporting Living Streets through their ‘walk to school’ campaign, which aims to make this the natural choice for pupils,” she said.

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“The Lyari Girls Café aims for children to experience true free play, that is not set up according to an adult agenda – in open spaces, not designated play areas,” said Isha who runs the programme Street Champions Lyari. “There are no specific activities and there is no fixed equipment. The children set their own challenges, assess their own risks, take their own responsibility, have their own adventures, and learn from them. What they learn can’t be taught,” she added proudly. The event ended with theatrical performances by children from the Lyari Girls Café on stage at Port Grand Park acting as ambassadors for their organisation.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2018.