UNICEF hopes meaningful steps of Punjab will help promote awareness on child rights

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Head of UNICEF Punjab Douglas G Higgins has welcomed the stance of the Punjab government to ensure child protection, and hoped that these meaningful steps would assist in advocacy and promoting awareness regarding child rights in society.

Higgins, who was accompanied by the chief (PM&E) UNICEF Office Punjab, called on Additional Chief Secretary Punjab Shamail Ahmad Khawaja at Civil Secretariat on Monday. Matters regarding enhancement of goodwill between UNICEF and the Punjab government to improve child protection scenario came under discussion during the meeting. Secretary Social Welfare Punjab Haroon Rafiq and Director General Child Protection & Welfare Bureau Punjab Fatima Sheikh were also present.

Additional Chief Secretary Shamail Ahmad Khawaja apprised the UNICEF Punjab head about a proposal of the sub-committee of the Cabinet Committee on Protection of Child Rights to establish provincial commission on the child rights, and said that the sub-committee has completed its deliberations regarding action plan to revamp Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, Punjab.

The child protection units at district level are also being reinvigorated according to the sub-committee under the convener-ship of Additional Chief Secretary Shamail Ahmad Khawaja. Recommendations to the competent authority for constituting Child Rights Commission which would comprise of prominent religious scholars, representatives of well-reputed NGOs, senior officers from the relevant provincial departments and above all the elected representatives have also been finalized.

This commission, after its creation, will be responsible to constitute a comprehensive child protection policy and will independently monitor the juvenile case reporting and registration, investigation, prosecution, conviction in borstal jails. Apart this the medical, rehabilitated, legal and social issues of the miners who are victims of domestic violence, child trafficking, child labour, child marriage and every kind of child abuse which include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, pornography, prostitution and neglect by step-parents or so-called guardians.

The sub-committee has also recommended to strengthen the child protection units at district level through establishment of child protection committees which would work as referral system for entry into Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, the ACS added.

Higgins offered that UNICEF would extend all out technical and monetary help to make all the governmental organisations meant for child rights protection but an umbrella organisation should be established which would help coordinate their problems with UNICEF consultants.

He also welcomed the proposed regulations against pornography and public obscenity through enacting rules requiring the presence of appropriate adult in offenses involving children unless the parent or guardian is himself a suspect.

On the occasion, the additional chief secretary said that “we value the technical assistance from UNICEF as it will result in motivating the society at larger scale to refrain from committing violence particularly on the minor domestic workers”. He also presented a memento to the UNICEF official.