As a nation we are afflicted with the notion that the domestic help we hire are our slaves and treat them in any manner we want. Recently; I came across a piece on the Dawn News website mentioning about a 14 year old girl working as a domestic help in Lahore being subjected to torture by her employers. They shaved her head and was burnt alive after being doused with petrol. She was moved to the burns ward of Mayo Hospital where she is undergoing treatment.

   It is one of many sad incidents that occur on a daily basis, and are not a source of much surprise or shock. For me this kind of physical abuse and brutality towards our domestic help is unbelievable. And this problem exists irrespective of age and is rife in our society. Whether it is men, women or children hired as domestic help there is always a tendency to abuse them verbally and physically. These young boys, girls hired as help in our homes, are grossly underpaid. They are in majority cases denied the right to basic necessities of life. It is child labour and a crime in every given way. These children are treated as dirt by the majority of us, abused, seen as downtrodden and looked with contempt. Is there any realization that we could also have landed in their place and be treated in exactly the same way as we are treating them? Just because we are well off doesn’t mean we can use it as a pretext to demean them?  Is this racist outlook towards these children and our dastardly treatment justified?

These young kids are forced to work in our homes due to abject poverty and to support their ailing families. They act as a helping hand so the money they earn can go towards meeting their family expenses. As per my knowledge, a number of laws do prohibit child labour in Pakistan. As in most cases, the law is hardly followed or implemented in any sense of the word. Its mere existence is enough for the government and no outright action has ever been initiated to put these people behind bars. The practice continues unabated in the absence of any stringent checks. These poor kids form the backbone of our nation, they are our future.  The government sits silently, refusing to address this malice in our society and taking stringent steps towards eradicating it. It is the duty of those who are affluent in our society to support these kids education working in our homes and offices.

 All children need encouragement, made to realize and understand the significance of gaining education. The benefit that it offers is; knowledge and learning. Helping them with their education can inspire them into becoming politicians, economists, doctors and engineers. They can be a vehicle for change in our country. If affluent people take out Rs 1,000 a month for causes like The Citizens Foundation (TCF) which amounts to Rs 12,000 a year. It’s equivalent to a year’s education for one child!  For our own children, we would pay a fee of Rs 8,000-12,000 a month to educate them in one of the elite private schools in our city. Can’t we as responsible citizens act collectively and start raising the equivalent amount for causes like the TCF?  Is Rs 12,000 a year not affordable for us? Imagine this scenario, for every kid being supported by our affluent households we could herald an education revolution in our country. It could act as an engine for growth and progress in the future. I know it sounds like an improbable task, but my belief is, with the right initiatives this goal is very much achievable.

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