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Poverty Forces Children to Work Illegally in Pakistan

Despite laws in Pakistan that prohibit child labor in hazardous jobs, millions of children continue to work in order to put food on the table. According to the International Labor Organization, many of these children work in harsh and often dangerous conditions.

Like millions of other children in Pakistan, Mohsin left school at 13 to work to help feed his family. His father is paralyzed.

“My father has been sick, and we had nothing to eat at home. So I had to work because of the problems we face at home,” said Mohsin.

According to the latest U.S. Department of Labor report, Pakistan had made no advancement by 2011 in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

Qadir Khan Mandokhail, who works for a non-profit human rights organization in Karachi, capital of southern Sindh province, said, “We are working for the implementation of the laws. The children, they should not work under 18. They should go to schools for educations. The reason is that the department of government of Sindh and Baluchistan and the federal government - they are not seriously working for these issues.”

While education is free and even compulsory to age 16, children as young as six in poorer areas need to work to help their families.

“I want so very much to go to school, but I can’t study because of the situation in my home,” said Mohsin. He works in a local garment factory, loading bundles or doing embroidery, and earning roughly $10 a week.

Mohsin’s mother, Ruby, said Mohsin’s older brother started working in the factory when he was 10, despite the dangerous conditions. A fire in a garment factory last year in Karachi killed 289 people, including children.

“We got scared when that factory caught fire. Other people’s children got killed -and they were like our children. I’m so afraid of sending my children to work, but what can I do? I have to send them to work so that we can eat,” said Ruby.

With little law enforcement, increasing unemployment and widespread poverty, it is hard to see how Mohsin, and others like him, will have a different future.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.