Punjab Child Protection Bill 2017March 26, 2019
A Matter Of HonourMarch 26, 2019
Visit to HelpLine 1121 of the Sindh Child protection Authority
ST4 Block 7 Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, (021) 99243789
on 18 March 2019
Zubia and Naeem went to meet Dir. Gen. Sindh Child Protection Authority, Govt of Sindh on 18 March 2019.
The DG had given an appointment for 11:30 am. However when we reached his office at the appointed time, he had still not turned up for work. His staff called him and reminded him of the appointment. He however said that he could not come to office before 1 pm. (speaks a lot of the child protection department). He asked his Asstt Dir. Saima Malik, to manage us and do the necessary discussion.
This was perhaps a blessing in disguise, as Saima was more knowledgeable, more hands-on and more frank. The following discussion and conclusions were arrived at:
- The Sindh Child Protection Authority (SCPA) headed by a Dir. Gen is one of the departments of Sindh Social Welfare Ministry, which is run by a Secretary and a Minister.
- SCPA has an office and a focal person established in each of the Sindh’s 29 Districts.
- One of the activities of SCPA is the phone number 1121, a HELPLINE number for reporting children exposed to all kinds of abuse and neglect. (a very wide definition indeed). This number is to common to all districts of Sindh.
- There is currently no budget allocated to helpline. So the help line is nothing but a bunch of telephone operators who sit and record on a register any call they receive. Since January this year they have received 1500 calls, of which 1493 were fake, irrelevant, dummy or wrong number calls, while only 7 were possible distress calls.
- The Helpline has no equipment, computers, or shelter house to which they can take an abused child. Construction work on a Shelter home for 300 children was started about 10 years back in Korangi 5. It is still under construction. So the Helpline is trying to create linkages with private or charity Shelter homes for the possibility of accepting a child, if brought in by the Helpline. However no arrangement has been arrived at so far.
- The SCPA received its first budget of Rs 50 million in 2016. It was largely spent on buying cars and pocketing the rest. A corruption case on this is underway with NAB.
- SCPA has been given Rs 200 million budget this year. The concept of SCPA for spending budget is to build buildings, offices, furniture, cars, televisions etc. So the subtle art of how an abused child may actually be helped is a far cry.
- The Helpline director said, that the definition of an abused child being very broad, one could THEORETICALLY report any abuse to Helpline 1121. This could be a child beggar, a drugged child, a case of domestic violence on a child, a lost child, a child under 18 employed on any labour, a child not going to school (neglect) and so on. Sounds like a dream. However the Helpline Director said that as they have no capacity and resources right now , they will do NOTHING, if any one reports any of the above situations.
- In fact even the most minor support such as computer, data base etc is being provided to Helpline by the UNICEF.
- There were 4 more rooms in the office of SCPA. Each room had elegant furniture and was decorated by one or two females pleasantly engaged in doing absolutely NOTHING. There was not e single piece of paper or file they had on their tables. They felt no need for such pretences.
- The Helpline 1121 and the entire SCPA is a decoration piece of the Sindh Govt, intended to impress the local and foreign bodies, of the care and kindness that our hearts are overflowing with. It is not likely to do , even in next 10 years, even one fifth of what KHH imagines it ought to be doing.
- Our understanding of this subject is a great reward and learning – notwithstanding the pain and the sadness that it may have caused. One can only go forward, knowing what exists on the ground.
- In the next KHH meeting we should discuss and chalk out a program on how to activate SCPA.
ZM and NS