Minute Mirror got in touch with Sarah Ahmad, special coordinator to chief minister Punjab on Child Protection and Punjab Social Security, and chairperson of Child Protection Bureau Punjab.
Where were you born and how was your early childhood?
I was born in Karachi. My mother is a house wife and my father a businessman. I was always good at studies. I completed my MBA from IoBM and I was also good at sports and that was the best part of growing up. I never thought that I will be heading such an important department that is connected to the solid base of our future, but I guess I was destined to be here.
Were you always politically active?
Not that much, I became politically active when Imran Khan made us believe that we are the actual power. And we as youngsters can do wonders. I joined politics in 2009, served as information secretary Sindh, women coordinator Punjab and deputy information secretary PTI.
How do you balance professional and personal life?
I do not socialize with people. I have given my 100 percent to my work and any time that is left for me is dedicated to my family. I have stopped hanging out with my friends because my job has given me such an inspiration to save the future of my country that I do not want to waste even a minute.
What is your dream vacation?
If I ever think about taking a vacation, only peace comes in my mind. Anywhere in the world where I can be near to nature, water and fresh air, there I want to spend my free time. But unfortunately, I do not get free time. My mind is always on my job or thinking about my child. The time I spend with the children at the Bureau is also a source of relaxation for me, and I think of it as my vacation when I sit with them and ask them about their future plans. Their dreams give me hope that our future is bright.
Who do you want to give credit for your achievements?
First of all, to my parents and then my husband who stood by my side like a rock and took care of our child when I was busy saving other children of my country. My family has been a source of inspiration as they always encouraged me to do more and more for myself and for my country.
When were you appointed as a chairperson and what were your thoughts?
I was appointed in 2019, and brought lots of reforms and activated this department. The chief minister of Punjab is the patron in chief to the Child Protection Bureau. There was no meeting held by former CM Shahbaz Sharif and before him, the last meeting of the Board of Governors was held by the CM, Pervaiz Elahi in 2007. But when I took charge there was special focus of CM Usman Buzdar towards this department. He has already taken two meetings of the Board of Governors in the last two years. There was no visit by Shahbaz Sharif but CM Punjab Usman Buzdar has visited the Bureau three times, which reflects the interest of this government towards the protection of the rights of children.
Can you tell us some of the achievements of this department?
When I joined this department, few people knew about this department. So, I started a mass awareness campaign to let the people know about the Child Protection Bureau. Many new initiatives were taken for the children. We started IT labs, mass awareness campaigns, technical training for boys and girls, visits of children to different historical and recreational spots, hands on experience and placement of children in different brands like Maria B etc, job placement of children in CPWB who lived here in Bureau, establishment of new building of CPWB Faisalabad, Sargodha, initiation of the working on CPWB Sahiwal, established Child Protection Units in districts of Punjab, collaboration with UNICEF and other NGOs, also started a comprehensive anti-beggary campaign all over Punjab, and also did the training of police officials on how to deal with children.
How many children were rescued last year?
Last year in 2021, we rescued 7,749 children who were begging on the roads and we have reunited around 7,000 lost children with their families in 2021. People can contact our helpline, 1121, in case they find any child who is neglected by his guardians. More than 250 children, who were abused physically while working as domestic workers, were also rescued in the last year.
What are your future plans related to this department?
The future plan is to establish child units in all districts of Punjab, and play effective role for the protection of the rights of children. We want to make our cities beggar-free and for this purpose, an anti-beggary campaign is being carried out in all district offices. Children are supposed to be in schools, not on roads. This is the basic right of every child born that he should get education and select a better future for himself.
One message you want to give to the young women of our country:
Nothing is impossible in this world. You have to stay focused, get your education, think about your career, be independent economically and do not take pressure from anyone. When women support women, they become heroes and they can do wonders. We have to be there for other women as well. We do not need anyone to tell us what to do or what not. Strong parents will raise strong children. All of the working women around us are a strong influence on the young girls. They just have to dream and work hard.