Children in power.

THIS year, for World Children's Day, children attending a temporary learning centre near Hyderabad were asked what they would do if they could be prime minister.

Eight-year-old Lakshmi said she would make a school for her community. Ten-year-old Shankar said he would make a football ground in Hyderabad. And six-year-old Habibullah drew a picture of a policeman holding a stick, and said he would want to improve the police system.

Education, play and protection - three essential elements that should define childhood - these were the themes that came out most strongly in the sample of responses collected by the centre. It was also telling that these were the biggest gaps they saw in their lives and in their community. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - that golden, aspirational document to be celebrated, re-read and re-shared on Children's Day today - these are in fact indivisible, inalienable rights to be claimed by all children regardless of who they are and where they are born.

In reality, identity and geography play a strong role in determining what rights children can access. For those in the temporary learning centre, for instance, several aspects of identity can reinforce vulnerability: coming from ethnic or religious minority groups; belonging to an informal settlement, unacknowledged on the edge of a city with no access to water and sanitation; and being submerged in extreme, intergenerational poverty exacerbated by the recent floods. In this and in communities across the country, the lack of ID documents can constrain access to other rights.

Education, play and protection are the elements that should define childhood.

The recent crises experienced by Pakistan - economic, political, humanitarian - all have taken a toll from which recovery will be long and hard. What is perhaps most unfair and least talked about is that children have and will continue to suffer from disproportionate harm in this context. The damage to life and property, loss of livelihoods, displacement and uncertainty caused by the floods has also meant rising risks of domestic violence, child marriage, child labour and indefinite disruption in terms of learning for children.

According to Unicef, over 27,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed, and still more are continuing to host displaced families. There is evidence that education in emergencies can be life-saving, by providing safe spaces away from exposure to violence; by bringing...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT