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Artists, athletes and activists call for end to state inaction on Child Protection



Karachi Press Club, 23rd May 2019

Just over a year ago, we united after the brutal rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab in Kasur and pledged to do our utmost to ensure no other child suffers that fate again. The horrific rape and murder of 10-year-old Farishta in the nation's capital has once again brought agony and shame upon us. Between these two tragedies that have shaken the nation, more than 10 cases of child abuse were reported on average every day (Sahil, 2018). Zindagi Trust, a non-profit working to reform the government education system, brought together Pakistan's leading artists, athletes and activists to push for sustainable action to prevent child sexual abuse. Joining the trust's founder, musician and activist Shehzad Roy were actors Mahira Khan and ZebaBakhtiar, former Pakistan cricket team captain Younus Khan and activist Nazim Haji and Karamat Ali.



In 2010 a Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) curriculum was developed for schools to ensure children could identify and protect themselves against child sexual abuse. This LSBE program covered concepts like "Good Touch, Bad Touch," child and gender rights in an age-appropriate, culturally sensitive manner and was approved by the ulema karam. Zindagi Trust, a non-profit working to reform the government school system, ran this program so successfully at its government schools since 2011 that it was declared a model implementation of LSBE by Aahung, the non-profit that developed the curriculum. The schools adopted by the trust were able to develop ownership of the program in the parents and teachers and saw significant gains in terms of student awareness, confidence and openness to report cases of harassment or abuse. The program has travelled to hundreds of schools since, thanks to Aahung.



From then onwards, Zindagi Trust has been advocating with the support of Aahung to introduce Child Protection through LSBE in schools across Pakistan. After the Zainab tragedy in early 2018, the Sindh and Balochistan governments took notice and took the bold step of agreeing to integrate LSBE into the provincial curriculum. This was announced in joint press conferences by the political and administrative leadership and the two non-profits leading the initiative.



As things stand, much work remains to be done with only some relevant chapters having been introduced so far in the Sindh textbooks and with the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab still unmoved despite being urged to take action. The participants highlighted that in addition to the urgent need to teach LSBE in government schools, Child Protection Units need to be activated and made effective in every province; a special police unit trained to deal with cases of child sexual abuse; shelters created by the state for survivors of child sexual abuse which often happens inside the home; counseling and therapy to be provided to survivors of child abuse; and staff at hospitals and clinics to be sensitized to provide appropriate care to survivors of child sexual abuse.

CONTEXT

We are gathered here again after a year and a half when the Zainab tragedy took place. We want to:

(1) Express our grief and anger at the horrific rape, acid torture and murder of 10-year-old Farishta and many other cases of child abuse that never make it to the media

(2) To push and plead the state to act now to prevent child abuse and protect survivors

Since the brutal rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab in January 2018, more than 10 cases of children being abused have been reported on average every day

Back then, we had pushed for Child Protection through Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) to be taught in all schools. We have made some headway but there is a long way to go.



Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) in Schools

LSBE teaches children to recognise and protect themselves against physical and sexual abuse, child and gender rights violations regarding disease, hygiene and nutrition.

Through Zindagi Trust's advocacy with Aahung, the governments of Sindh and Balochistan have committed to introducing the LSBE curriculum into their textbooks.

The curriculum is age-appropriate, culturally sensitive and approved by the ulema karaam.

Zindagi Trust ran this program so successfully at its government schools since 2011 that it was declared a model implementation of LSBE

Zindagi Trust's adopted government schools were able to:
     develop ownership of the program in the parents and teachers
     saw significant gains in terms of student awareness, confidence and openness to identify and report cases of harassment or abuse.

Parent Education is critical
     To identify signs of abuse in their child
     To listen to and support their child
     To sensitize fathers (or other male relatives), a need identified by mothers trained at our schools
     To spread awareness in the community, as mothers at our schools have done through informal centres

The program has travelled to hundreds of schools since, thanks to Aahung.

Currently, only some relevant chapters for LSBE have been introduced so far in the Sindh textbooks and both Sindh and Balochistan need to accelerate the pace at which Child Protection is being integrated

The provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab still unmoved despite being urged to take action and teach LSBE through schools

Private schools are also hesitant to introduce this. Child sexual abuse is a problem that affects everyone regardless of class, ethnicity or gender.






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