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Caritas spotlights child labor

Event promotes better educational opportunities and programs

Caritas spotlights child labor
Child workers perform during a Caritas Pakistan event at Holy Rosary Church in Faisalabad yesterday
Saraphine John, Faisalabad

July 15, 2011

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Church social workers vowed to renew their commitment to end child labor and alleviate poverty during a seminar commemorating this year’s World Day Against Child Labor yesterday. The event, held at the parish hall of Holy Rosary Church in Faisalabad and involving Caritas Pakistan, was a follow-up to international celebrations held last month and brought together about 250 working children and their parents. Rafia Ashfaq, director of the Catholic Human Development Center, stressed the importance of education and the tracking of school drop-out rates. “The diocesan Catholic board of education should incorporate this in their annual surveys. It will help in assessing the socioeconomic situation of Christian families,” she said at the event. Caritas, the social arm of the Catholic Church, has been supporting the poor through its working children program since 2007. The project funds 12 nonformal education centers in all 12 parishes of Faisalabad in Punjab province. Currently 360 children attend three-hour classes held after they finish work, and Caritas has incorporated 84 alumni into Catholic schools. Engaging the parents of working children required a more practical approach, said Asher Nazir, manager of the Caritas program for children. “While they had to give up the daily wages earned by their children, financing schooling posed another challenge.” The Church has attempted to solve this issue with an income-generating program for small businesses, which offers 15,000 rupees (about US$336) in loans to parents with an interest rate of 10 percent per year. Ninety-five families have received loans from the program so far. Munir Masih, who received one of the loans, now runs a shoe repair shop out of his home. His three young daughters assist him in the morning prior to attending classes at the Caritas center in the afternoon. “I could not study after the tenth grade, but I have hopes for my children,” he said. “We are grateful to the Church for this source of income.” Media reports have claimed that there are 3.3 million child laborers in the country, while more than 12 children were killed because of injuries sustained from torture at the hands of their employers, mostly in Punjab province. Asia is home to about 60 percent of domestic child laborers, among which 90 percent are girls, according to data from Anti-Slavery International.
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