At first-of-its-kind virtual joint parliamentary closing session
Sharjah, April 23, 2020
Members of the Sharjah Children Parliament (organised by Sharjah Children) and Sharjah Youth Parliament (organised by Sharjah Youth and Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah) called for stepping up efforts to increase the number of child protection specialists and provide them advanced training programmes to ensure children and youth in Sharjah are protected from abuse, and raise awareness about child welfare as a study discipline.
These calls were made during a joint closing session of the two parliaments on Wednesday, held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators.
Held virtually on a video conference platform to discuss child abuse issues and concerns, the session hosted HE Major General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Commander-in-Chief of Sharjah Police; Dr. Jassim Khalil Mirza, Chairman of Sharjah Social Workers Association; HE Fawzia Hassan Ghareeb, Assistant Undersecretary for Educational Operations Sector at the Ministry of Education; and HE Faisal Al Shimmari, Founder and Chairman of Emirates Child Protection Association.
Members of both parliaments presented their suggestions to the participating officials directly. Some members inquired about the impact of the UAE’s child protection law (Wadeema’s Law) in reducing child abuse. Others posed questions about the reasons that prevent child victims of abuse from reporting the incidents or seeking out to competent authorities and the role of the latter in such cases.
Some members called for involving schools and teachers in child protection by developing curricula to generate awareness, or putting in place advanced protection systems like continuous surveillance on cameras in school facilities and the creation of smart applications to inform children and youth of the different types of abuse and how to report it.
The young members emphasised the need for a dedicated child protection expert in every school and public place, in addition to levying fines and a criminal penalty on violators. Members also called on schools and kindergartens to heighten student awareness by devising educational activities on the topic of abuse and teaching them basic self-defence skills.
Children and youth also suggested dedicating a day to raise awareness about abuse against differently abled children and educate students on the different types of disabilities, besides conducting workshops on how to support students with disabilities and become advocates for their rights and safety.
HE Major General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Commander-in-Chief of Sharjah Police, pointed out that Sharjah’s children and youth live in an environment which ensures that their safety and rights are fully secured, given all of the emirate’s child entities are working together to translate the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, to turn Sharjah into a leading child-friendly destination.
“We work with several institutions to provide children and young adults an ideal environment, and make our best effort to ensure that they never have to face any kind of abuse. At the Sharjah Police, we have attached special teams with all relevant entities and stakeholders, and have a hotline number for reporting complaints on child abuse or neglect. We handle these cases fast and with strict confidentiality,” Major General Al Shamsi added.
For his part, Dr. Jassim Khalil Mirza, Chairman of Sharjah Social Workers Association, said: “Child protection starts at home and awareness creation must be a top consideration when raising children. There are many awareness programmes and initiatives that target children and youth. The Ministry of Education recruited 44 child-protection expert social workers who were trained by the UNICEF and have judicial authorisation in 17 schools.”
Dr. Mirza noted that such efforts have been on-going for over three decades, noting that UAE schools host regular child protection expert visits who deliver awareness programmes to students including the differently-abled, to instill responsibility and safety fundamentals in them.
Meanwhile, HE Fawzia Hassan Ghareeb, Assistant Undersecretary for Educational Operations Sector at the Ministry of Education, pointed out that the Ministry organises training programmes for their employees to equip them to take appropriate action in the event of child abuse. She underlined that the Ministry has been turning to theatre and sports to raise students’ awareness on social issues, teaching self-defence classes like karate, jujitsu and fitness challenges, as well as teaching responsibility through educational courses.
“The Ministry is dedicated to achieving UAE’s development goals that aim to provide good health, wellbeing and security to all children and youth. We have been continuously intensifying child abuse control procedures, activating plans and training workshops for teachers, and upgrading and maintaining surveillance cameras at school facilities, and reviewing footage regularly,” she added.
In his engagement, HE Faisal Al Shimmari, Founder and Chairman of Emirates Child Protection Association (ECPA), said: “The best safeguard against abuse is for children to communicate openly and effectively with their parents and teachers. We perceive family communication as a first line of defence. Also, harnessing modern technology in education, we should be making the most of smart solutions to prevent abuse.”
Al Shimmari added: “The UAE is one of the world’s first countries to grant judicial authorisation to child protection experts and offered specialised training to a host of social workers in child-protection, which reflects on the keenness of the UAE and Sharjah to protect its younger generations. We aspire to appoint a child-protection expert in every UAE school and we are confident of achieving this strategic objective, given the close collaboration of or Ministry of Education and our education sector.”
Sixty members of the Sharjah Youth Parliament which saw the closing session of its 7th cycle, and 58 members of the Sharjah Children Parliament, which witnessed the closing session of its 16th cycle, participated in the session.
The session was attended by HE Ali Mehad Al Suwaidi, Chairman of the Sharjah Consultative Council; HE Noura Al Noman, Chairperson of The Executive office of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi; and HE Khawla Al Mulla, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah.
The session was also attended by HE Dr Muhadditha AlHashimi is the Chairperson of the Sharjah Private Education Authority; HE Afaf Ibrahim Al Marri, Director of the Sharjah Social Services Department; Ayman Al-Barout, Secretary-General of the Arab Parliament for the Child; Jassem Al Balushi, Member of the Board of Trustees of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Future Leaders and Innovators; Sheikha Aisha Khalid Al Qasimi, Director of Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah; Hanadi Saleh Al Yafei, Director of the Child Safety Department; Aisha Ali Al Kaabi, Acting Director of Sharjah Children; and Fatima Mohammed Musharbek, Acting Director of Sharjah Youth.
About Sharjah Children Parliament
Sharjah Children Parliament is an initiative by Sharjah Children, a subsidiary of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators. It aims to build a generation that is aware and educated on parliamentary life in the UAE, in line with the emirate’s vision to encourage children to lead through education and participation in the legislative process. The council establishes principles based on respecting the opinions and freedoms of others, with Islamic values enshrined in its philosophy.
About Sharjah Youth Parliament
The parliament is a youth platform dedicated to creating dialogue and discussions of ideas and social issues that concern youth, in order to create positive change in society. It consists of young male and female members aged between 13 and 16 years, who are elected from members of Sharjah Youth and Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, as well as all youth-oriented institutions in the Emirate of Sharjah.
The Sharjah Youth Parliament was established in 2005, under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and with the patronage of his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Future Leaders and Innovators. The parliament aims to enhance youth participation in public life and enable them to play a meaningful role in serving and advancing their nation and lead the future.
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