The agreement, which was signed at Sharjah Baby Friendly Office – the organisation tasked with establishing Sharjah’s child and family friendly credentials – promotes the commitment made by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhamad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah and His wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, to ensure that the Emirate focusses on the family as a key to achieving comprehensive development across all fields and activities that support the wellbeing of children.
Dr. Hessa Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SBFO and Shahida Azfar, Representative ad interim at UNICEF Gulf Area Office completed the signing of the agreement at Al Qasba. The signatories agreed that the agreement will build on the existing efforts that Sharjah has undertaken to become officially accredited a UNICEF Child Friendly City.
“By SBFO’s signing the MoU with UNICEF,Sharjah has taken one step closer to becoming an officially recognised Child Friendly City. We have agreed with the international community to implement a set of proposals to build on Sharjah’s successful initiatives to ensure that the emirate is an ideal place for children to grow and thrive. Under the directives of His Highness and the support of Her Highness, Sharjah has long held the principles of being family friendly and this collaboration will ensure that the city meets the international requirements set forth by UNICEF to receive the Child Friendly City status,” said Dr Hessa Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SBFO.
Under the terms of the agreement, SBFO will work to set up a practical framework for the implementation of the UAE’s Child Protection Law No. 3, known as the Wadeema Law, in Sharjah, in consultation with policy makers and legal institutions in the UAE. The legislation came into effect in June last year and was enacted to protect children from all forms of abuse. The MoU will also put in place a communication strategy to increase the understanding and awareness of the Child Friendly City initiative and introducing children’s rights to life and their role in development, and allowing them to express their opinions as well as their right to participate in community activities.
SBFO will oversee and coordinate the development of opportunities for all children in Sharjah to enjoy play and leisure, as well as address issues of equity and discrimination, and introduce measures to overcome barriers that lead to exclusion. The office will ensure government and leadership support and implementation of the Child Friendly City initiative, including the setting up of a steering committee composed of key government departments which will work on implementing the various initiatives and activities.
“It is a great pleasure for us to visit Sharjah and sign this important agreement. UNICEF is proud to partner with the Emirate to promote children’s rights and to create the very best environment for them to grow – where it has become a model for other cities and countries to follow. Sharjah has clearly demonstrated its commitment to providing opportunities for all children and to ensure equity, which is one of the main goals of UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities initiative. We hope to formally declare the emirate a Child Friendly City very soon,” said Shahida Azfar, Representative ad interim at UNICEF Gulf Area Office.
SBFO’s signing of the MoU with UNICEF forms part of its on-going efforts to increase Sharjah’s baby and child friendly attributes. In March this year, SBFO announced that all government and private institutions, nurseries and public places, for the first time outside the emirate of Sharjah and across the UAE, were able to receive accreditation for: “Mother-Friendly Work Places”, “Breastfeeding-Friendly Nurseries” and “Mother & Baby-Friendly Public Places”. The initiative enables entities to become registered as baby-friendly, provided they meet a set of basic criteria.Established in June 2016, SBFO aims to protect and improve the status and wellbeing of children of all ages in Sharjah. It functions to create relevant strategies and plans and to implement them in cooperation with relevant institutions and government authorities.