The sad news of the death of Zohra, a little 8 year old girl, beaten to death, has reached us these days.
With the promise to receive an aid to her studies, she had left, 4 months ago, her family who lived in extreme poverty in Kot Addu, in the Punjab province in Pakistan.
The wealthy family of Rawalpindi, who had to welcome her, however, presented her a very different reality.
When she arrived she was enslaved, forced to look after the couple’s young son and the house.
The spark of the murderous fury was her involuntary release of two little parrots owned by the couple. It was the couple who brought Zohra to the hospital with serious injuries to her face, hands, legs and chest.
Traces that do not exclude sexual violence have also been found on the body of the child, who died after the hospitalisation.
Little Zohra is only the latest victim of a plague that involves more than 150 million children in the world, sold, forced into hard work, risky for their physical and mental health. They are the victims of child labour.
Just from the same region of Punjab, comes the story of another young victim of this reality who, deciding to rebel and not passively suffer his slave status, has become a symbolic witness of the fight against the exploitation of millions of children like him.
Unfortunately, his courage cost him his life because Iqbal Masih, only 12 years old, was killed by a gunshot wound on an Easter Sunday in 1995 while he left the Church with the Gospel in his hand.
Born to a very poor Christian family, Iqbal Masih had to go to work in a brick kiln at the age of four to help the family bear the costs of his brother’s wedding.
The family then, to pay the dept, sold him to the owner of a carpet factory, where he was forced to work 12 long hours a day and paid a misery.
When he was 10 years old, he assisted to a demonstration of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and so he decided to change his life and rebel against his torturers.
He returned to the factory and refused to work, despite the beatings. He was threatened and forced to leave the village with the family.
The Front took him as an example of resistance and also helped him financially by encouraging him to participate in international conferences aimed at raising public awareness of the denied rights of Pakistani child workers and contributing to the debate on international children’s rights.
Thanks also to his courage, in 1993 the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act was approved in Pakistan.
To the sacrifice of Iqbal and Zohra we owe the awareness and partial sensitization in Pakistan on such a barbaric practice as that of child exploitation.
Emmanuele Di Leo