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Children of a lesser god By Tazeen Javed.

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Children of a lesser god By Tazeen Javed April 28 is International Day of Action for Health and Safety at the Workplace. In a small 12x14 room in Orangi Town, with only a small door for ventilation, 9-year-old Ayesha is busy rolling agarbatti sticks. She is humming the latest Jawad Ahmed ditty when suddenly she has a spasm of cough. She feels dizzy and goes out of the room to get some fresh air, but returns soon after, despite feeling nauseous. She has a whole pile of agarbatti sticks to roll if they are to eat the next day. Her 7-year-old brother, who returns home later, has small cuts all over his tiny hands. He works at an auto workshop and is assigned the task of cleaning small parts and cuts his hands during the process. They both have to work in order to support their family of five. Their father has abandoned them and the mother is too sick to work. Though only in her early 30s, she is nauseous all the time and vomits whenever she eats anything. ...read more.


Even when reported, the magnitude of injuries is often minimized, which results in unavailability of credible data. The main law dealing with OSH is the Factories Act 1934. There are Hazardous Occupation Rules 1978; the Mines Act 1923; Social Security Ordinance 1965; Workman's Compensation Act 1923; Shop and Establishment Act 1969 and Dock Labourer Act 1934. But all these laws fail to address the issue of OSH of child workers. It is known that child workers face a lot of safety and health concerns, as do adults, but the effects are more damaging on children with their low level of resistance. Children mostly work in carpet weaving, garages, agriculture, welding and light engineering, auto workshops, garbage collection and chemical sector and service industry. Ironically, most are labelled hazardous for children in the newly-formulated National List of Hazardous Forms of Child Labour for Pakistan (see box). There are some in construction and transport, but they are less in numbers. A recent study carried out by PILER on brick-kiln workers revealed that most of the children work with their parents and are bonded since birth. ...read more.


WHO's Study Group on Children's Work has summarized a few findings: The eyesight of children working with very fine wire, performing carpet weaving or embroidery, or working in microcomputer factories is damaged within 5-8 years. Children using hand tools, such as hammers and screwdrivers designed for adults, are said to have higher risk of injury and fatigue. Children using seats and benches designed for adults have more muscular and skeletal problems. When children find that the protective gear does not fit them, they work either without it or use makeshift arrangements such as tying a handkerchief over their nose instead of respirators, or using coloured glass while welding. Young workers have lower tolerance to heat than adults and face a greater danger of heatstroke. In addition to all these hazards, most children are malnourished and have lower level of resistance than other healthier children of their age. The Government of Pakistan ratified the ILO Convention 182 regarding the immediate elimination of worst forms of labour, but no local legislation followed for its implementation. In 2001, the government announced the National Policy and Action Plan to combat child labour, but that, too, is impractical and has no connection with the hard realities. ...read more.

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