Karachi is a dangerous city for children living on the margins of society. 3,000 go missing every year, of whom more than 200 are physically or sexually abused. Kidnapped children can be forced into organized begging rings, domestic servitude, labor in shops and brick kilns, and prostitution. For a long time, few of those missing children would see their families again, but today more families are keeping hope alive and reuniting with their children. Roshni Helpline’s recovery campaigns, which use TV, radio, social media, and newspapers, are in large part, the reason for this change.
A boy named Amir is one of the hundreds of children Roshni has helped. After he was kidnapped from the street in his neighborhood in Karachi, his family feared the worst. Fortunately, they had seen some of Roshni’s media campaigns, so they called the organization’s helpline—a call center that serves as the hub of communication about missing children in Karachi.
Roshni quickly took action. They printed and disseminated flyers with the boy’s photo and helped Amir’s parents report the case to the police. As the days passed, Roshni’s counselors met with Amir’s family and navigated a complex police bureaucracy to make sure the case was being investigated as efficiently as possible.
One day, Amir managed to escape from his kidnappers. While he was on the run, police officers found him on the road and eventually took him to a shelter run by another charity. Roshni staff were soon after featured on a local news channel with Amir’s father. When the staff at the shelter heard his story, they rushed to contact Roshni. Amir was reunited with his family.
Roshni has developed a uniquely successful model for the recovery of missing and exploited children. In addition to raising media visibility around rarely discussed issues like child exploitation and sexual abuse, the organization is using its partnerships with police and local government to press for better implementation of child protection laws in coordination with police and child protective services.
Roshni works in some of the most challenging areas of Karachi with extremely marginalized populations and is one of the few organizations pushing the agenda for children’s rights in Pakistan. The Fund for Global Human Rights gave Roshni its first institutional grant in 2010 and continues to provide general support funding.