There are more than 70 million children under the age of 18 years in Pakistan. About half of these (35 million) are girls. Twenty-five million children of school-going age do not attend school. According to official figures there are 3.3 million child laborers, but unofficial estimates place the number at 8 million. Approximately 4,000 children languish in the over-crowded, inhabitable conditions of Pakistan’s jails. The vast majority of these have not yet been convicted. These are just a few figures to illustrate the desperate condition of children in Pakistan.
SPARC believes that the problems of millions of children cannot be resolved through a piecemeal, project-wise approach. Action is required at the macro level if widespread change is to be brought about. Primary responsibility lies with all levels of government, but civil society organizations and the general public also play important roles in improving the status of children and their rights.
SPARC is one of the few civil society organizations in Pakistan specializing in advocacy on child rights, supported by awareness raising, research, capacity building and service delivery.
We use these tools to influence decision-makers, opinion-makers and lawmakers to bring about legal and policy reforms and other actions that protect and promote child rights, to motivate and mobilize the general public to bring about a change in social attitudes and practices and to make child rights a part of debate on national or local policy.
Advocacy What is advocacy?
The term “advocacy” has come to mean many things to many organizations and individuals. To SPARC, advocacy refers to the deliberate process of influencing those who make policy decisions. SPARC’s advocacy aims to introduce policies and/or legislation where it is needed and none exists, to reform ineffective or harmful policies and/or legislation, to ensure existing policies and/or legislation is effectively implemented and enforced.
This reflects SPARC’s belief that the problems of tens of millions of children cannot be resolved through a piecemeal, project-wise approach. Action is required at the macro (government) level if widespread change is to be brought about.
SPARC hopes to impact the maximum possible number of children through its work and therefore concentrates its efforts on advocacy. Awareness raising, research, service delivery and capacity building are all tools that feed into advocacy campaigns, giving the organization credibility, mass support and practical lessons that inform its advocacy campaigns. These tools often overlap and complement one another. For example, research can be conducted through service delivery activities, which can also raise awareness and build capacity.
An improvement in the condition of children and the status of their rights will not come solely through policy and legislation. Changes in social attitudes and practices are also required. SPARC spreads awareness about child rights through its many publications, consultations/meetings, media presence and other activities. Increased awareness also builds pressure and mobilizes mass support behind its advocacy campaigns.
SPARC believes that by raising awareness it is also building capacity. Armed with information, the general public, civil society organizations, government officials and concerned individuals are better equipped to improve the condition of the children of Pakistan.
In addition to the research that goes into producing its numerous publications, including three major books on child labor, juvenile justice and child rights, its annual report The State of Pakistan’s Children and a large number of brochures, SPARC has conducted a number of research studies:
Islamabad Child Labor Survey: In 1996, SPARC conducted a survey on the state of child labor in Islamabad Capital Territory, which is the area in and around the Federal Capital and includes some rural and small semi and urban settlements within the city limits.