PAKISTAN: Teen-age girl in the driving seat to get rid of the loans taken for treatment of her father 

Farzana Ali Khan

AHRC-ART-063-2011.jpg”Those who are really concerned about me must pay a serious attention while those do not care should not waste their time by coming to me.” Can you believe, who said this?

These are the words of a nine-year old girl Wajeeha, a student of grade II from Tangi town of Charsadda district, Khyber Pakhtunkha province, who has been driving a Qinqi motorcycle rickshaw (three whealer) for the last two years to earn a living for the family.

Wajeeha, with an extra confidence and still impression on her face, but with a mild tone said: ”My Baba (father) has served at the Frontier Constabulary and when during a clash with the insurgents back in 2006, he got injuries to one of his legs and became a handicapped, the government provided us a total of Rs 250,000 as compensation money.”

Her father remained at a hospital for one year and his treatment cost the family Rs 625,000, (USD 7267) which they arranged by taking loans from relatives and some family friends.

The little girl with surprising looks said ”Despite having wounds in his leg, my Babacontinued driving the vehicle by getting a little help from me to start it for him,” adding this was the inspiration  that she got from her father and never begged but worked hard till end.

Wajeeha is a self-taught Qinqi driver. She learnt it on her own after observing her father for a few days and now she can drive without any fear, she proudly says that she has committed no traffic violations and fortunately has never met with any accident so far.

When I asked about her first experience, Wajeeha said, ”Of course, when I drove for the first time I found people laughing at me while seeing me seated on the driving seat but there are others who felt pity about me after knowing my ordeal. Soon they realized the problem and now most of the local populace is encouraging me.”

Wajeeha’s father, Inamur Rehman, recalled that he snubbed his daughter on many occasions for being in the driving seat of the rickshaw but she always insisted to be allowed. He used to stop her so she would not injure herself but today she can drive it very well. However, her father mostly accompanies her so she or her vehicle would not be harmed.

Wajeeha’s day is a full plate: she attends school in the morning; after returning home in the afternoon, she changes her uniform and takes lunch, then accompanied by her Baba, she goes around town ferrying passengers from one place to another till evening. And, at the end of the day, she has earned anything between Rs150 and Rs200 (averagely USD2 for a day).

Wajeeh is among those thousands of children who fall prey to child labour due to poverty. Though our legislators are very quick in making and amending laws but unfortunately what they often forget is its implementation.

According Article 11(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, expressly prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory, mine or other hazardous employment. In addition, the Constitution makes it a Principle of Policy of the State of Pakistan to protect the child, to remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education within the minimum possible period and to make provision for securing just and human conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex.

Whereas International Human Rights Law, United Nations Convention on The Child Rights rticle 32(1) states, Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

This is without doubt that the future of a community is in the well being of its children. The above fact is beautifully expressed by Wordsworth in his famous lines ”Child is father of the man”. So it becomes imperative for the health of a nation to protect its children from premature labor which is hazardous to their mental, physical, educational and spiritual development needs. It is urgently required to save children from the murderous clutches of social injustice and educational deprivation, and ensure that they are given opportunities for healthy, normal and happy growth.

The rising number of the children forced to work by the undue treatment on part of the society and negligence of the government is constantly posing a challenge to the nation. The government has taken various pro-active measures to tackle this problem but we can clearly see in the form of Wajeeha that the evil is still persisting. However, considering the magnitude and extent of the problem and that it is essentially a socio-economic problem inextricably linked to poverty and illiteracy, it requires concerted efforts from all sections of the society and the government to make a dent in the problem.

Wajeeha knows she is breaking the law as she hasn’t attained a driving license. The young girl, though quite mature in terms of realising her responsibilities said she hasn’t chosen this life but the life has chosen her for this job.

It is quite surprising but fortunate for Wajeeha that there is no traffic police available in the town to stop her. Despite having a strong inclination towards attaining a quality education and a desire of becoming a teacher, Wajeeha is helpless to fulfill her dream due to financial constraints.

In the rural society to accept female carrying passengers from one stop to another is strange phenomenon, but is there any alternative to provide assistance to Wajeeha and her family that need finances?

Children are innocent both inwardly and outwardly. No doubt, they are the beauty of this world. Early in the morning when they put on different colors of uniform and start leaving for schools, the parents feel a specific kind of joy through their naïve looks.

But instances like those of Wajeeha who has to sacrifice their aspirations, dreams and wishes as they are pressed to earn a living for themselves and for their family rather than to attend the school regularly is disheartening.

When I asked Wajeeha what is her demand she said in a sulking mood, “I am not begging from anyone, what I want is only my right as being a part of the society, If the government or Human and Child Rights organizations can get me that they should come to me but if even they are helpless ask them not to mock me by making false promises.”

“My friends laugh at me when people from government sectors, Human Rights Organizations and media come to me and let me pin hope from them but they never look back, and it really hurts!” she resented.

The brave girl said for people it would be a source of entertainment to see a teen age girl driving a rickshaw but only she knows how she has suffered a lot by seeing miseries of her father and other family members.

As Albert Camus has said, “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.”

Dear readers, Come forth and let’s save her from being tortured any further by stretching a helping hand to make her live like every normal child and enjoy the precious stage of her life i.e. childhood as she would never have a chance to get that back.

Please don’t put a lock of full stop to Wajeeha by ignoring her but let her become the voice that could echo throughout generations as an exclamation.


About the author: Farzana Ali Khan is a journalist working for The News International. She has written the above article for the AHRC. She can be reached at

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-063-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights,