Tuesday 16 August 2022 - 5:52:33 am

Child Safety Forum 2021 recommends establishment of national committee to monitor, follow up on child abuse

SHARJAH, 18th November, 2021 (WAM) -- The Child Safety Forum 2021, organised by the Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah (SCFA), has called for consolidated efforts by local, regional and international entities to create a unified framework of action to raise awareness on child protection. The forum also released a 10-point recommendation to protect children from sexual abuse, online and offline.

The set of recommendations released at the conclusion of the forum include: -To establish a permanent national committee entrusted to follow up and monitor direct and indirect practices of abuse against children, both online and offline – be it physical, abusive digital content or games, etc., and warn the community of such dangers through official media outlets.

-To create a national index to measure the achievement of target objectives that reinforce children’s safety and protection against all types and forms of abuse.

-To offer training courses and workshops to enable parents as well as social and academic organisations to identify signs of direct and indirect sexual abuse.

-To organise events and activities to raise children’s awareness of risks associated and enhance their communication skills to be able to address such issues with their parents.

-To strengthen coordination between parents and social and educational entities and unite efforts to uphold children’s protection and ensure their healthy growth.

-To coordinate with international authorities and overseas organisations, and harness best practices in monitoring, handling and reducing incidence of child abuse.

-Organise a special edition of the Child Safety Forum to impart vital strategies to parents on protecting their children from any form of abuse.

-Raise awareness of child safety legislations in the UAE and highlight penalties associated with it.

-To recognise the long-term psychological impact on children who have experienced abuse, and prioritise appropriate treatment for them.

-Focus on streamlining response related to child abuse cases with healthcare, psychological and criminal agencies, during the various stages of caring for children who have been abused.

Held under the theme, 'Keep their Innocence', at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) yesterday (Wednesday), the day-long forum brought together more than 100 federal and Sharjah-based government officials as well as a host of child welfare experts.

Strengthening child protection mechanisms The second panel session at the forum titled ‘Methods to prevent child abuse - defining mechanisms and responsibilities of families and community’, identified protection mechanisms and analysed the role of family, society and institutions in preventing child abuse. It also highlighted the need to educate parents and experts on the importance of reporting sexual abuse cases and discussed methods of addressing the psychological effects of sexual abuse and support mechanisms for children in such cases.

Moderated by media personality Yousef Al Hammadi, the session brought together Faisal Al Shimmari, Founder and Chairman of Emirates Child Protection Association; Lt. Col. Abdulrahman Al Tamimi, Director of Child Protection Center at the Ministry of Interior; Iman Abdullah Hareb, Director of Social Protection Department, Ministry of Community Development; Ghanima Al-Bahri, Director of Care and Rehabilitation, Dubai Foundation for Women and Children; and via a recorded message from the US, Chris Newlin, MS LPC, Executive Director of National Children’s Advocacy Center.

Speaking at the forum, Lt. Col. Abdulrahman Al Tamimi emphasised that a child’s protection and care is the responsibility of all members of the community, and that greater cooperation was essential to protect children from any form abuse. He said: "Awareness plays a major role in preventing abuse or violence against children. Consolidated efforts are essential to creating a unified framework of action, and so is launching awareness campaigns targeting the entire ecosystem of children, parents and the community."

Calling for forging partnerships with international stakeholders and experts to learn about successful experiences and best practices, HE Faisal Al Shimmari, said: "The Emirates Child Protection Association seeks to expand the scope of child protection and care through a comprehensive framework applied by all public departments including child, family and community departments. We also aim to bring childcare within the domain of public interest."

Emphasising that a supportive ecosystem that champions social responsibility will help protect children, Iman Abdullah Hareb, said: "Legislations in the UAE reinforce the importance of protecting children and recognise their status as vital stakeholders in a cohesive community. The Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 concerning child rights focuses on the importance of protecting the child even within the family and entrusts their safety to the parents but do not absolve them if the child is abandoned or neglected and is not given due protection."

Ghanima Al-Bahri pointed out the importance of ensuring that psychological treatment is given top priority in cases of violence, as the impact of abuse could lead to depression, despair, and suicidal tendencies, in addition to aggravated levels of anxiety. She added that frontline responders must be well-equipped to offer psychological first aid provide initial support for children in an appropriate manner.

In a recorded audio message, Chris Newlin, the Executive Director of the US-based National Children’s Advocacy Center, explained that comprehensive protection offered by the center to child victims of physical and psychological abuse is achieved through the concerted efforts of a multidisciplinary team of institutions and entities.

Explaining the center’s system of functioning, he said that all reported cases of violence and abuse against children are attended to immediately. Experts are chosen to speak with the child, and every piece of evidence is collected in a precise and detailed manner. The child is also transferred to a psychological treatment centre to receive adequate care during the process of investigation. Newlin applauded the efforts of the UAE and commended CSD’s initiatives to provide adequate childcare and protection.

At the end of the forum, Hanadi Al Yafei, Director of CSD, honoured the participants of the 2nd edition of the Child Safety Forum and presented them with souvenirs and certificates.

WAM/Hatem Mohamed/Tariq alfaham