As part of its commitment to actively participate in Arab and international events focusing on children being a key element of society, the Sharjah Baby Friendly Office (SBFO) showcased the emirate’s experience and efforts to improve children’s and young people’s futures and preserve their rights, at the first edition of the International Conference on Humanizing Cities organised in Medina, Saudi Arabia, from May 7–10.
Dr. Hessa Al Ghazal, Executive Director of Sharjah Baby Friendly Office, delivered a detailed presentation on the status of children and child-care in Sharjah. She also discussed programmes implemented by SBFO in cooperation with concerned entities and government departments, within the framework of the Sharjah Baby-Friendly Emirate campaign, as well as the Sharjah Child Friendly City Project.
During the session, Al Ghazal reviewed some statistics on breastfeeding rates in Sharjah, pointing out that they rose from 18% to 56% between 202 and 2017. She also highlighted the government’s efforts to make Sharjah home to high-end facilities and services related to children’s and their families’ health and safety, where their rights to education and community engagement are well protected.
Al Ghazal also discussed Sharjah’s Child Friendly City project, based on the UNICEF ‘Child Friendly Cities’ initiative, which aims to promote the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at the level where it has the greatest direct impact on children’s lives – in the cities where they live.
Dr. Hessa recounted the procedures followed by the emirate in cooperation with the concerned government entities and departments, and how Sharjah became the first city in the world to be recognized a “Child Friendly City”, after fulfilling all the new standards of UNICEF’s global initiative.
Al Ghazal observed that the steps to promote children’s and young people’s welfare and safety in the emirate, for instance, a 24-hour hotline dedicated to taking distress calls from all over the UAE, the provision of special services to orphans and juveniles, inmates of punitive and correctional institutions, the protection of child rights and educational and awareness initiatives are implemented by a collective government strategy with contributions from all its departments.
She noted that these measures for child protection are based on a unified vision, inspired by the sound directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and supported by his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) and Chairperson of Rubu' Qarn for Creating Leaders and Innovators.
She added: “The Office's participation in this exceptional event is in line with Sharjah's position as a Baby- and Child-Friendly City, as we believe that they are the driving force for human development. Our presence here is a result of HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qasimi’s impressing upon us that it is every nation’s foremost duty to pave the way for their children’s bright futures by giving them a healthy and friendly environment, and establish societies where their rights are fully protected.”
She concluded: “Earlier this month, Sharjah was recognised for its outstanding efforts and accomplishments in the protection and promotion of children's rights by the UNICEF, when they bestowed us with the title of ‘Child-Friendly City’, making us the first city in the world to have successfully met the new international requirements and criteria launched by the global CFC initiative. Through our participation at this conference, we aim to share our expertise and experiences in the field with all cities and countries working towards establishing a more humane and enriching infrastructure for their children and youth.”