Top 40 Winner Human Rights Blog

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Children Rise, Societies Thrive!

For many people childhood memories are the best part of their lives, but unfortunately this does not stand true for the millions of children across the world. Picture yourself between the ages of 7 – 8 years, struggling to survive on the street; with poor health conditions; near absence of protection; without access to education; care and compassion and now multiply that feeling with 24 million. 
Yes millions…. Pakistan inhabits 24 million school age children[1] who are denied their fundamental constitutional rights of access to education. Nearly half of school children are destined to hazardous forms of child labor, which not only deprive them from their right to adequate development and participation, but pose severe threat to their protection and survival. Children in Pakistan have to cope with a plethora of challenges; poverty, illiteracy, low learning levels in schools, poor health conditions, early forced and child marriages, dismissal conditions in juvenile prisons, trafficking, exploitation are among critical issues faced by children.
Pakistan being the fifth most populous nation in the world with 65% of total population being under 30 years made only little progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and now agreed to Sustainable Development Goals, but the country stands 146th out of 188 countries on the UNDP’s Human Development Index[1] and 185th out of 188th countries on the United Nations Development Program’s Gender Empowerment Measure. Poverty is pervasive in Pakistan: Pakistan is at the 146th position out of 187 countries. One out of every fourth household is suffering with intense poverty, while three quarters of the household makes less than $2 a day.
It is significant that according to the Global Gender Gap Index Report in 2006, the first year in which the the report was published that Pakistan ranked at 112, and since then, its position has been steadily deteriorating every year. In 2016, Pakistan remained second last out of 142 countries. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded almost 3,000 cases of violence against women and girls, including murder, sexual assaults, domestic violence and kidnappings in 2016 and 2017. Besides poverty which contributes to 48% of child labor, other issues such as corporal punishment in schools, neglect by family and society, lack of access to quality of education and lack of vocational skills has limited their options and opportunities of empowerment which results in increased child labor, and a growing number of uneducated and non-skilled children, especially adolescent girls. This is becoming serious concern as children, adolescent girls, individuals from minority groups and people with disabilities experience the additional burden of such miseries.
Ifran, 13 years old, from Shekhupura Pakistan lost his hand in a fodder chopping machine when his employer pushed him for being inattentive. During another incident a 16 year old paid the price for her brother’s ‘crimes’ after men forcefully stripped her and paraded her around the streets of Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan. The incident occurred when she was returning home after fetching water when suddenly men surrounded her, stripped her and forcefully made her walk in the local community for an hour. The girl’s screams for help fell on deaf ears as no one came to her rescue. The witnesses’ claimed that nobody came to help her because they were scared.  Without a doubt civil society as well as the state considers child labor as worst form of slavery and as a result has promulgated legislation to eliminate child labor. Yet shockingly the enactment of legislation, budgetary allocation and child right reforms are still far from reality as child labor worsens over time.
According to a recent study by a child rights focused organization in Pakistan, an estimated 1.2 million street children live in Pakistan. These children end up on the streets due to many factors including, poverty, neglect, family problems, natural disasters and displacement, violence in homes and schools, lack of adequate employment, education and social welfare systems. It is no surprise that children on the street are more vulnerable to other forms of abuse including drug-addiction, trafficking and sexual abuse than children having the care, compassion and supervision of their parents.
Homelessness, malnutrition, physical, sexual and psychological abuses are devastating results for children living on the streets. Issues such as these do not stop here, but continues to involve children in commercial sex, drug abuse,  begging, violence and terrorism.
Nine year old Razaq for instance who belonged to an internally displaced family in North Waziristan in Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) said, “It is gravely disappointing to see our schools and houses demolished in blasts by terrorists and we continue to pay the price for the conflict we never created. I and many of my friends became homeless, left our childhood behind, and lost our schools and future”.
Denial of children’s rights is a threat to human development and calls for concrete actions. Commitment can be shown by ratifying the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Child and by adopting child right related laws and policies which is the first important first step to recognizing and realizing the rights of the child but this will remain an empty promise unless it is translated into resource allocation and the enactment of legislation pertaining to child rights.
Child Rise, a nonprofit organisation focusing on the rights of children, is working with communities, government line departments and other civil society actors to influence child protection, education (formal, non-formal and vocational), healthcare, social welfare, psychosocial and legislative reforms to enable disenfranchised and vulnerable children to live healthy, educated and secure childhoods in protective environments. Child Rise is also seeking to partner with communities, adolescents and youth groups, individual philanthropists and child rights focused international organizations, who intend to give back to communities, in order to create an enabling environment for children. Child Rise stands for the rights of children because all the children around the world have one thing common, their rights. We also believe that it takes a society to raise a child and when children rise, societies thrive. For more information please visit our facebook page.

[1] According to article 25 – A of the constitution of Pakistan it is state’s responsibility to provide free compulsory education to every child of age between 5 – 16 years.

Guest Post by Prem Sagar (Prem has an MBA in Management and 14 years of professional experience in mid to senior management level in the areas of education, economic empowerment, child protection in conflict affected areas, and youth empowerment. His expertise includes strategic management and leadership, lobbying and advocacy for policy reform, institutional strengthening, program quality advisory and implementation. In his current role he is the Founder and C.E.O. of Child Rise and NGO which influences policy reforms for the rights of the child in Pakistan)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Proof is in the Pudding: The Value of Traditional Justice Mechanisms for Post Conflict Africa

Gacaca Courts -Justice on the Grass
The dynamics of contemporary conflicts reveal the difficulties inherent in countries transitioning from conflict to peace and has given birth to transitional justice. The latter is the field of study where justice is not relegated to criminal or retributive justice only but to a holistic range of processes, the ambit of which includes accountability, truth recovery and reconciliatory processes.  Kofi Anan former UN Secretary General defines transitional justice as the “ full set of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuse, in order to secure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.”  In keeping within these processes and within this framework, particularly with regard to Africa, there has been resurgence in the use of traditional or local justice mechanisms.

In this blog I will thus briefly attempt to highlight the political contingencies that certain states face, which catalyze the use of traditional justice mechanisms and make it so popular within the African transitional justice landscape. I will contend that in some instances traditional mechanisms can adequately address massive human rights violations and establish peace and reconciliation in post-conflict settings. I suggest that the value of traditional justice within politically laden contexts is that they act as catalysts for the promotion of unity. They draw on cultural and religious linkages of interconnectedness that are of value to many African societies, such as the way in which ubuntu was ingrained in the TRC process and the traditional strands of Gacaca conformed into a modern version of Gacaca. This therefore, arguably creates a more “culturally familiar and socially secure” space for people to participate in.  

Drawing on the practices of many African states, since the 1990’s a plethora of judicial and non-judicial justice mechanisms have been used which has served as a testing ground for the development of transitional justice.  In terms of non-judicial justice mechanisms, there have been a variety of truth commissions used, as well as a number of traditional and community based approaches employed. The use of truth commissions was used in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa over the years, going as far back to the 1970’s. Some other mechanisms include, the Gacaca courts in Rwanda, the role of the Magamba spirits in central Mozambique, the use of Mato Oput in Northern Uganda, the tradition based practices of the Kpaa in Sierra Leone and the institution of Bashingantahe in Burundi. Ideally the ultimate goal of most of these mechanisms has been to attain some sort of political reconciliation and thus ultimately peace.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Humara Soch - "Our Thoughts" on Terrorism and Mental Illness

Picture Courtesy of Slideshare
Terrorist; Jihadi fighter; suicide bomber; hate preacher; brainwashed radicalised terrorists; these are the terms that often spring associate with South Asian Muslim men. Such terms create a biography of a group who are in fact politically underrepresented, increasingly economically disenfranchised and significantly unaccounted for in discussions surrounding mental health. In order to understand the double standards that exist concerning our understanding of extremism, Islam and mental health, the intersectionality between religion and gender must be unpacked.

It is the war on terror that has re-constructed this notion of the orient and the occident perpetuating a culture of fear mongering and the ‘otherisation’ of an entire religion. This representation of the Muslim man as a relentless evil jihadi fighter has hypermasculinsed the South Asian Muslim man and has homogenised the identity of an entire group leaving little room for debate about the real issue at heart: poor mental health.   

As major global media outlets have subtly alluded to, is the steep rise of terrorist attacks with the so-called incompatibility between western democratic values and Eastern culture. A study conducted by researchers at Georgia State University found that
“the average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles. Attacks with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in 192.8 articles on average, whilst other attacks received an average of 18.1 articles.US media outlets disproportionately emphasize the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims — leading Americans to have an exaggerated sense of that threat. " The frequency of the reporting of terrorist attacks coupled with the major difference in language that is used to document such attacks makes salient that mental illness is rarely ever brought up when Islamic terrorism is the subject, because Islamic terror is viewed through a narrowed lens ― a lens that points in the direction of pure, unadulterated evil.” The brutal Charleston shooting serves as a testament to the reality that South Asian Muslim men are marred by the term terrorist whereas white terrorists are depicted as mentally ill. This injustice is precisely why alternate media outlets as well as mental health support services are essential to provide an accurate and just understanding of extremism across the globe.

The blatant separation of western and eastern cultures has reinforced the ethno nationalist and ecological politics across the globe. In fact the rise in right wing sentiment across Europe and the Atlantic correlates with the rise in Islamophobia within these states.
This may seem far reaching, yet a recent report Anti-Muslimism Hate Crime and the Far Right by the Centre for Fascists, Anti-Fascists and Post-Fascist Studies noted that “between 2010-2011 24% of hate crime against Muslims was committed by far right groups.” However the perpetrators of hate crime across the UK are increasingly being characterised by their ordinariness; which perfectly highlights the extent of the problem within our societies today.