INVEST IN CHILDREN – The Message on the “World Day Against Child Labour”
An interview with Dr Javaid Rashid, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, University of Kashmir, Srinagar
When we think about any vulnerable population (s), locally as well as globally, women; old-aged persons; and children are seen atop. This is because of the various issues they get exposed to on a continuous basis. Despite having laws, policies and programmes related to the aforementioned vulnerable populations, there seems no proper enforcement as well as implementation. Eventually, they become more vulnerable to various issues like abuse; malnutrition; hate; stigma; fear; threat; etc. and continue to face daily hardships. Children, unlike other vulnerable populations, are more prone to face a lot of issues as a result they become victims of abuse (physical, emotional, psychological, neglect and sexual), child trafficking, child prostitution etc. These grave issues hamper the development of children and snatch their childhood from them which they are supposed to live happily. Similarly, child labour is also a grave issue. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment. Among them 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.” And according to the 2017 report of UNICEF, “12% of all children in India are engaged in some form of child labour”. When we say, children are snatched from their childhood; child labour is the main factor for it. The physical, social and psychological developments of a child are directly hampered through child labour. Education doesn’t remain their basic motive, playing and recreation do not come to their daily activities and love is seen very far away from those children who become victims of child labour. This year, the theme of World Day Against Child Labour is, “COVID-19 – Protect children from child labour now, more than ever”.
In order to elucidate child labour, its impact on children and various other important issues, Khan Ansur interviews Dr. Javaid Rashid for Oracle Opinions. Dr. Javaid Rashid has his specialisation in Child Protection and advocates the same through his research and other academic activities.
Q: Please briefly tell us about yourself.
My name is Javaid Rashid. I am teaching Social Work at the Department of Social Work, University of Kashmir, Srinagar. I am a student with an interest in Child Protection, Child Rights and Sociology of Childhood.
Q: As a Child Protection Expert, how do you define child labour?
For me, we cannot have a universal definition of child labour. It needs to be contextualized across regions, cultures and geographies. I think one golden rule applies to all definitions RELATED TO CHILDREN and that is THE BEST INTERESTS OF CHILD. This rule should define any issues or phenomenon that has any bearing on the lives of children and their well-being.
Q: What are the factors which lead to the menace of child labour?
Economic hardships, poverty and helplessness of parents/elders/children and also illiteracy or ignorance, misinformation could be the main factors or contributing factors for it.
Q: How do you, as a Child Protection Expert, see children working in movies and other drama serials?
I think a lot depends on the nature of work and characters that children play in such movies/serials and its implication on children’s lives in the real world. It needs strict regulations.
Q: What are the social and psychological consequences of child labour?
Exploitation and abuse of children in any form have a social and psychological impact. Child labour deprives children of their childhood and many other rights which are essential for their well-being, health, education, etc. It exposes children to diverse risks and vulnerabilities.
Q: Has there been any academic work done on this issue, particularly by the scholars of Kashmir?
Yes, marginal work is being done. I have not come across any substantial and rigorous academic work on child labour in Kashmir as of now. There are few research papers and some reports of NGOs.
Q: What does the law say about child labour? Despite having strict laws, we see more cases of child labour. Please tell us where does the problem lie?
The problem is structural and contextual. It is not just about perceptions or ill-awareness. The disadvantaged families fail to break the cycle of poverty and their children become victims of the same. It hardly happens that this vicious cycle is broken on its own. Failure of Governments / States to have Comprehensive action and sound policies is also a reason.
Q: Who should be contacted if one witnesses incident (s) of child labour?
I think one should properly understand the context in which the child is placed. Generally, the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) / Child-Line India / Police or any other Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) / Charity Service Organization (CSO) can be contacted. It needs a proper plan at all levels. Rescuing should not be random. It must be done considering all aspects of the child and taking along all stakeholders on board for the rehabilitation of the child and his/her family.
Q: Are there any agencies working to help eradicate child labour?
Yes, there are few government agencies, and some NGOs and CSOs are doing their bit. But it is still marginal. It needs a radical push.
Q: How successful has been the role of local NGOs in curbing this menace of child labour? Have they ever come up with any program or solid objective related to this?
Look Non-Government structures can only showcase models; these can’t reach to all children. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders. But State / Govt. is the main and key stakeholder in this exercise. We can put the onus of eradicating child labour on NGOs. They are doing their job. Yes, vibrant professionalism is needed both in Govt. and NGO sectors on this.
Q: How can we, in your view, eradicate the issue of child labour from Kashmir?
In my opinion, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has a great role to play. We need substantial allocations of resources for DCPUs so as to formulate comprehensive family strengthening programmes. If you empower a family, its children also get empowered in terms of health access, education and nutrition. Govt needs to prioritize children in any case.
Q: There have been consequent lockdowns of about more than 10 months and the income of people has sharply fallen with the result, Kashmir is likely to witness the rise of child labour. In the absence of any social protection system and given the additional economic hardships inflicted as a result of armed conflict, how is preventing child labour in such situations a viable idea?
Preventing child labour is always a viable idea as long as families are supported to meet their basic requirements. I think again the role of Govt is very crucial here.
Q: Given the abrogation of Article 370, the making of J&K as UT and now the possibilities of demographic changes, how would it pave the path to eradicate the menace of child labour?
The lockdowns and other political upheavals have had a serious impact on the economy of the region. Political instability is the main problem and bottleneck that hinders all types of progressive and developmental initiatives. Bringing changes in law or rules or provisions does not have an immediate impact in general-sense. I believe contextual planning and keeping children at the center of any welfare/developmental program is crucial and helpful in all situations.
Q: What is your message for parents to help eradicate child labour?
Parents know everything. Families who are disadvantaged or marginalized need support, they do not need messages and sermons. People are not ignorant and stupid. They know better than us most of the time.
Q: As today (June 12, 2020) marks the day as “World Day Against Child Labour”, what is your message for the world in general and Kashmir in particular?
Invest in Children! Not just that they are our future but also what they are now …as children… here and now!
Note: The interview was supposed to be published on 12th June – World Day Against Child Labour but due to internet shutdown in Shopian, the hometown of Dr. Javaid, we could not avoid the delayed publication of the interview.