The National Assembly of Pakistan has unanimously passed a resolution to ensure the rights of an estimated 1.5 million street children living in Pakistan.
The ground-breaking announcement for the rights of street children came in response to a nationwide awareness raising tour led by Street Child World Cup bronze medalists Team Pakistan.
The resolution followed lobbying by the British based NGO Muslim Hands which supported the tour, seek and the Azad Foundation, purchase based in Karachi, which is committed to the rights of street children. The team of 9 former street children, are part of the Azad Foundation. Syed Muhammad Ali Bilgrami from the organisation said:
“Team Pakistan won a bronze medal at the Street Child World Cup and made the nation proud, they have changed the face of football in Pakistan and promoted sport as a key tool in the social reintegration and rehabilitation of children living or working on the streets.”
Team Pakistan made headline news across Pakistan for their participation at the Street Child World Cup, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in April. The tournament, in association with Save the Children, sought to challenge the negative perception and treatment of street children across the world through a football tournament, festival of arts and international conference.
Team Pakistan Captain Sameer added: “When I was on the streets I felt like a nobody. After going to Rio and being part of the Street Child World Cup, I know that I am somebody.”
The ‘I am Somebody’ tour has taken in ten cities including Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar. It will end in Islamabad.
The team has also been awarded the national colour of Pakistan by Mr Riaz Peerzada (Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Sports and Tourism), as a token of appreciation for the example the young people had set internationally and in Pakistan.
Street Child World Cup’s Chief Executive John Wroe said: “Team Pakistan are Ambassadors for their country and for the millions of children who still have to live or work on the streets across the world. Each one stood up and said ‘I am somebody’ and they have ensured change will come for the 1.5m street children across Pakistan.”
Muslim Hands spokesperson Tariq Nasir (Director Programmes) said: “These children are an inspiring reminder to us that no child has to live on the streets when they receive the protection, rehabilitation and opportunities that all children should be entitled to.”
The children are from the Azad Foundation based in Karachi, which is Pakistan’s largest city. The foundation is a leading non-profit, working with street children in Pakistan since 2001 while providing protection services to the street children, building capacities of the communities to prevent children from coming to streets.
The 9 young champions were selected through Azad Foundation’s sports for development programme for street children and transparent process of trials based on criteria established by the SCWC organizers. UNICEF and Social Welfare Department supported Azad Foundation during the selection. The 3-phase selection process comprised of open trials in which over 100 former street children from Azad Foundation and other organizations working with street children participated and 22 were shortlisted, a 2-week long selection cum training camp in which 11 children were selected and a month-long final training camp after which the 9 SCWC Team Pakistan players emerged.
Azad Foundation spokesperson Naveed H. Khan (Chairman Management Committee) said: “These children have changed the perception about Pakistan not just in the sport of football but by demonstrating the impact of the good work that is being done for the protection, rehabilitation, social reintegration and development of street children in the country.”
As part of the tour Muslim Hands and the Azad Foundation are hosting consultative workshops in each city and meetings with senior MP’s and dignitaries to advocate for the rights of street children. A key part of the agenda will be promoting how important it is that street children are able to access effective welfare provisions in Pakistan including rehabilitation, psycho social support programs and art workshops and there will of course also be some football played along the way!
The journey for street children’s rights continues. You can be a champion for street children. Get involved and get email updates or email Alexandra@streetchildunited.org
“It was a privilege to be invited to the launch of the Street Child World Cup at Downing Street. It gives children a voice through football, sales a platform to express their rights and celebrate their abilities – I’m proud to add my support.”
“I know from personal experience just what power football can have to inspire and change young people’s lives whatever their background or nationality. This is what the Street Child World Cup is all about and I give it my full support.”
“No child should have to live on the streets. I commend the Street Child World Cup for providing a platform for the rights of street children to be heard.”