Stock Sharjah Skyline, Al Majaz
The Sharjah skyline. Even during the pandemic, SCFO provided mental and logistical support to children in need of a safe environment. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO) on Monday shared its achievements attained in 2020, including measures to keep children safe and ensuring that they continued with their studies even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Hessa Al Ghazal, executive director of SCFO, said: “Despite the challenges the world encountered in 2020, [SCFO] has spared no effort in continuing to protect the rights of children and young people and support them emotionally and physically.

She added: “The significant achievements attained by SCFO during 2020 reflects the sustained efforts of the emirate of Sharjah in proactively addressing the challenges new generations of children and youth face while also raising community and family awareness about their rights and needs. As part of the office’s ongoing plans and strategies, we have both launched and participated in different events and initiatives to empower families and address issues related to children’s health and safety, in collaboration with other governmental and private entities working for the welfare of children and youth in the emirate.”

New identity

The year 2020 saw SCFO launch a new brand identity, including the creation of a new official logo. The new brand identity also emphasised SCFO’s vision of creating of “a safe, and nurturing environment” for children and young adults in the emirate, “where their rights are protected and guaranteed”.

Office relocated

SCFO was relocated to the headquarters of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) in Sharjah, bringing it under the purview of the council. The move followed a resolution issued by Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. She is also chairperson of SCFA. The resolution aimed to promote greater collaboration amongst all entities working under the umbrella of SCFA.

Launch of academy

SCFO launched the Sharjah Child Friendly Academy to support institutions and community organisations in promoting the development of children and youth. The academy is a digital platform designed to establish a comprehensive database of the office’s workshops, programmes and participants, bringing them all together under one roof.

Baby-friendly project

With the aim to ensure the sustainability of baby-friendly projects and infrastructure in the emirate, SCFO has issued updated standards and indicators for the Sharjah Baby Friendly Project in collaboration with relevant institutions.

Community events

SCFO participated in several community events in 2020 in line with its efforts to collaborate with various governmental and private entities and other agencies involved in working for the welfare of children and youth. At the fourth edition of the Sharjah Police Desert Park, the office set up an interactive maze pavilion designed to enhance the physical, intellectual and strategic thinking capabilities of children and youth. The maze was inspired by ‘A Mystery in the City’, a young-adult’s book commissioned by SCFO in collaboration with Kalimat Publishing in 2019.

Along with Sharjah Urban Planning Council and Sharjah Department of Public Works, SCFO participated in the tenth World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi. During the event, SCFO highlighted its ‘Child-friendly Urban Planning’ project and outlined its objective of introducing children in the emirate to the concepts of urban planning and ways to promote their role in designing public spaces.

In collaboration with Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, SCFO participated in the UAE Hackathon 2020 to provide youth with an opportunity to use open data to promote innovation and contribute to boosting economic growth in the country. Child-friendly schools

As part of their ‘Child-Friendly Schools’ initiative, SCFO organised an introductory meeting and awareness workshops for the principals of government schools and nurseries to introduce them to the criteria of child-friendly education.

COVID-19 awareness

To raise awareness on how to cope with the new normal in view of the pandemic, SCFO participated in a series of awareness events and workshops designed for children, youth and parents. The office launched an awareness campaign targeting hospitals, health centres and the local community to advise mothers to continue breastfeeding even if they contracted COVID-19 by following all recommended safety precautions. The campaign was supported by the Emirates Public Health Association.

Under the theme ‘Parenting and COVID-19’, the office launched a community awareness campaign on social media to instruct parents and families find ways of coping with the coronavirus-related challenges and provide them with accurate and reliable information.

SCFO employees participated in 63 local and regional forums and 30 international forums in the past year.

Reopening guide

In collaboration with the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) and as part of its ‘Together We Return’ initiative, SCFO partnered with the Child Safety Department to launch an educational e-booklet to mark the reopening of schools in the UAE under COVID-19 precautions.

Emotional health

In May 2020, the office hosted a meeting of the Executive Committee of the ‘Sharjah Child Friendly City’ project, to discuss children’s rights to emotional, health and education support during the pandemic. The meeting also explored how institutions in the emirate are prepared to support and meet the needs of children and families affected by the pandemic.

Info pack

The Sharjah Child Friendly Academy launched an info pack to increase awareness about breastfeeding. Themed ‘From Pregnancy to Breastfeeding’, the pack aims to educate mothers as well as healthcare professionals in maternity and child care on breastfeeding, fostering it as a social culture while promoting all types of care that should be given to newborns, to boost Sharjah’s child-friendly environment.

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Global contest

Meanwhile, SCFO launched a global creative competition on social media for children and young adults, in connection with the World Children’s Day celebrations, which focused on climate change as the central theme. Themed ‘From Sharjah’s Children to the World’, the competition encouraged young participants to create an artwork or write a short story about the importance of protecting the environment and how to combat climate change to ensure a better future for the generations to come.