Child Labour: What Can We Do to Help?

It was 4 a.m. when my cousin picked me up to accompany him to photograph one of the biggest government dump sites on the outskirts of Lahore. We reached there just before sunrise, when it was still dark.

The air was thick with dust and burnt chemicals, and the closer we got the harder it was to breathe. But that was only the start of my eye-opening experience. I was worried about the thick air and chemical dust for my own naive self, before realizing that this site had two dozen families around–mostly children picking up their breakfast from the dump leftover by government trucks.

That sight of six-year-old children prowling through rotten bananas, used vegetables and other food waste made me forget any issues I had with the thick air. After that day I realized there are certain unnoticed social issues that we face every day, but neglect them because they are so ordinary and mundane.


Picture courtesy of our head photographer, Azeem Akbar

Among all the social evils that one can think of, I consider child labor to be the worst one. But child labour and the suffering it causes is not just happening in city dumps on the edges of town. This problem is in our own homes, where children work as domestic servants.

If parents feel they have no choice but to put their children to work instead of enrolling them in school, then that shows the failure of  the economic and social safety nets. As a result, it is the responsibility of citizens who are more well-off to fill in the gaps through their personal choices. And those personal choices start at home.

Child labour is often defined as “the labour that deprives a child from childhood, freedom and from education.” Every child born in this world, no matter the cast or creed, has a right to receive all the basic necessities of life. Not only should he/she have access to food, shelter, clothing, etc., but also should have access to at least basic education. Education helps one to enhance his intellectual capacity, to raise ones living standards, and holds the key to open up new gates to success and glory.

But by “education” I do not merely mean the formal courses which are studied in educational institutes and give individuals various degrees that allow them to recognize by society as so-called “educated” persons.

What I meant by education is more holistic: education about religion, and about moral, social, national and even international rights and duties. Education about discipline, mannerisms, and good behavior.Education about respect for elders and love for young ones.Education about how to live a life which has purpose beyond personal wishes. So my question is: why we are not focusing on the real meaning of education, and why we are not focusing on personality building?

I observe that actually, we–the “educated” and well-off of society–are also not properly educated. We are just literate. But we ignore the things which we know are unjust and disturb our comfort zone.

“I understand these things are easier said than done but instead of relying on our government we should combine our efforts and show the importance of education to our workers. I am saying this because I have done it myself, I have preached this in my house and the result sit has brought are immensely satisfying and refreshing.”

Child labour is the worst of the evils of its kind because it doesn’t just affect the child’s mental or physical condition, but it also deprives him/her to avail any of the fruits of education discussed above. Rather it throws him/her in a dark hole of constant pain and struggle, and makes him/her dependent on others even for little basic needs, and kills his/her chance to excel in life.

In Pakistan, the statistics about child labour are horrible: According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics last year, 3.8 million children in the age group of five to 14 years are working in our country, out of a total of 40 million children. Fifty per cent of these economically active children are in the age group of five to nine years. Even out of these 3.8 million children, 2.7 million were claimed to be working in the agricultural sector. About 2,400,000 (73 per cent) of them were said to be boys.

What can we do to help? Like any change, it’s easier to take small steps. We can stop employing children to do our house chores and push their parents to realize the importance of education and how it can eradicate future generations from hard labour and improve their social status and living conditions.

I understand these things are easier said than done but instead of relying on our government we should combine our efforts and show the importance of education to our workers. I am saying this because I have done it myself, I have preached this in my house and the result sit has brought are immensely satisfying and refreshing.

Even do not think about loyalty from them. It doesn’t matter if they are loyal or not. You help them because it is the duty of humanity to do so. This isn’t a choice, or something done for only blessings, or only for rewards from God. It’s an individual, human obligation for you to take care of the people in your home.

I hope if we start this at a domestic level, we one day will be among the most educated and powerful nations of the world. But we must start with focusing on true education and the eradication of slavery and child labor.


Bilal Mustafa is a respected alumni of Pakistan College of Law, who graduated in 2013. He is currently practicing law and he aims to go for his LLM to the UK after some work experience. Bilal is a philanthropist at heart and one of his life objectives are to reduce child labour from Pakistan. He believes that the definition and beauty of Islam lies in just two things “Hakook ALLAH and Hakook ul ibad”. The latter is of more importance, he believes. The writer preaches the “rights of people towards each other” and this is something which is pretty much evident from his writing. Thus Bilal classifies himself as a Lawyer by choice, a Humanitarian by nature and a writer by circumstances.

  • Javaid Awais

    Totally agreed! But there is a need to differentiate between child labour and child work. A part from everything, what are the actual reasons for the children under 14 to work in worst form of child labour? In today’s recession, it’s not easy for them to fulfil their needs so how people make their children to have a good education? There are some schools in some rural areas and in villages too which are of good standard. And no doubt these children are very intellectual and creative but they are not aware of the pros of the education and the cons of the work which has the potential to deprive children of their childhood.

The views expressed by the authors in all the posts do not necessarily reflect those of Pakistan College of Law.
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