Separate ministry for orphans
Sher Alam Shinwari
The demand to set up a separate ministry at both federal and provincial levels was made by Siraj ul Haq, the chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, during an event organized in Peshawar to mark the World Orphans Day on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 and it needs a serious consideration as far as the state-operating machinery and especially those drafting policies are concerned. Though the Social Welfare Department is there to look after orphans, special persons and destitute but ground realities are far from truth because street children and child labour are increasing every day which verify the truth that either nothing is being done or least is underway to rehabilitate the deprived segment of the society.
Irrespective of the political lineage, the idea of launching a separate body for the orphans and widows makes an instant appeal to one’s independent conscience and the government in power must take a lead and credit to go for such humane project and already lot of work is also being done in different scattered shapes and forms but the proposed department could gather all the individual efforts under an integrated platform and could invoke a wide spectrum of social activists on local and international levels as the ministry at every forum could raise issues in a designated manner and could well put in every single effort towards rehabilitation of these deprived people.
The number of orphans in Pakistan stands at 4.5 million, Mr Siraj quoted and went to add that the welfare organization under the banner of his party was providing healthcare, food and education to over 20,000 orphans across the country which was a commendable job and should be replicated by the other political parties and rights activists. According to Mr Siraj, Pakistan was unfortunately among the 10 countries having high number of orphans which must alert us all and make us think to come up with a well-planned strategy to overcome the issue to a minimum level.
This again placed the demand of JI chief for setting up a full-fledged ministry, in the right purview to address this huge but very urgent social problem and if serious steps are not taken, its results could be disastrous for the entire country. The demand also includes a strong call for establishing orphanage in every city which prompts the urgent need for quick rehabilitation of the large number of orphans. However, the demand from the chief of JI came at a time when the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is focused on merging separate departments doing the same job.
But looking at the call for separate body from different perspectives, one could come to the conclusion that the very nature of the issue makes it altogether different as needs of the orphans are varied–shelter, healthcare, security, socialization, psychotherapy, education and mainstreaming and so on and so forth and may include social and legal assistance in case of adoption or reverting to back to the lost family.
Widows could also be included in the list of destitute families which again is a big issue and required urgent solution. The government functionaries, policy makers and philanthropists should join hands together to come up with a plausible solution to address the issue of orphans and destitute. It is strongly believed that by the rights activists that a separate body would help solve the issue of child labour and street children. But this should be a department with multipronged purposes with inclusive approach with a well trained staff on all fronts so that it could cater to all kinds of needs of the orphans.
Also the rights activists and all the individual bodies working for the welfare of the poor and deprived people of the society should put in all their efforts to release this dream for the bright future of the society. No reliable official data is available on orphans and widows in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including merged tribal districts and the gruesome suicidal attack way back in 2010 on a volleyball ground located in Shan Hasan Khel now known village of widows may still be deprived of help and assistance they deserved, the incident left over 100 women widows and many were rendered orphan.
Therefore, it is mandatory to get a baseline survey before going for such an ambitious project and based on true facts and figures the project may attract international donors and engage local philanthropists to strategize a comprehensive plan to set up a directorate entirely focused on the rehabilitation of orphans and widows. The baseline survey would serve as ground breaking for launching a full-fledged orphans and destitute department or ministry towards achieving a futuristic purpose. The scattered efforts would for achieving one big objective get one and targeted place. This dream should come true anyway.
The writer is a senior academic and freelance journalist based in Peshawar. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.