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The Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, has strengthened Sharjah’s status as a child, youth, and family-friendly city in 2021 by implementing 30 initiatives and campaigns, and through its participation in local and international events. SCFO also announced that its endeavours in 2021 included 14 new activities that targeted 426 participants from various organisations and institutions.

SCFO won the prestigious UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) Inspire Award - one of the most prestigious global awards given to innovative and inspiring initiatives of child-friendly cities. SCFO brought the laurel home by showcasing excellence in its Sharjah Child Friendly City Project, which was launched in 2016 guided by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, to protect and elevate the rights and wellbeing of children of all ages in Sharjah, without discriminating on gender, nationality or ability. It is tasked with creating joint child friendly strategies in cooperation with more than 30 relevant entities.

Sharjah Family Friendly Project

In June and July, SCFO carried out field visits to eight destinations in the emirate to prepare for accreditation as a Baby and Family Friendly City. In October, SCFO launched the ‘Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning’ at Expo 2020 Dubai. The pioneering design guide, which puts children at the heart of urban planning, was developed by SCFO’s Child Friendly Urban Planning (CFUP) project in strategic partnership with Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), UNICEF and UN Habitat.

It has also launched a campaign themed ‘Vote for Sharjah, Vote for UAE’ between November 5-15, followed by a promotional campaign for World Children’s Day between November 18-25.

On December 13, SCFO showcased its bold vision for the future of education at RewirEd, a global education summit held at Expo 2020 Dubai, with the unveiling of a comprehensive set of standards that align with global best practices and are designed to transform schools and nurseries in the emirate into child-friendly centres of learning and growth.

International participation

In early 2021, SCFO participated in a discussion session attended by 10 UNICEF experts, to review the UNICEF global strategic plan for child protection and strengthened global efforts to fulfil children’s rights in the digital environment. In May, SCFO participated in the Biennial of Public Space held in the Italian capital, Rome.

From July 7-8, SCFO participated in the inaugural edition of ‘Play 2021’, a global conference on children, play and space, held at the University of Birmingham, UK.

To bolster partnership and cooperation with UNICEF, SCFO brought together representatives of UNICEF and SCFA. They also met with the Education and Science Adviser/ Chancellor at the Embassy of Finland in the UAE.

Showcasing SCFO policies

In a meeting with the National Committee for Motherhood and Childhood, SCFO presented its policies and initiatives and received a delegation from the Family Affairs Committee at Sharjah Consultative Council. The entity also showcased its pioneering Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly (SBFF) project at the Second Forum for Women in Research organised by the University of Sharjah and took part in the celebration of International Children’s Day organised by the Ministry of Community Development at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Initiatives and campaigns

In 2021, SCFO launched several successful initiatives and campaigns that were developed through a participatory approach. In December, SCFO marked the launch of 15 children-rights’ standards in education to promote children's rights in the school environment. In March, the entity partnered with UNICEF to distribute the ‘Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation’ to all child and youth-related organisations and centres in Sharjah.

SCFO marked Emirati Children’s Day, observed annually on March 15; honoured 26 schools and nurseries for successfully completing the requirements of the ‘Child Friendly Schools and Nurseries’ (CFSN) project’s pilot phase; and launched a back-to-school campaign on its social media platforms to encourage and reassure children and young people that it is safe to return to classrooms following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

SCFO’s interactive pavilion at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival attracted 4,477 visitors to its swing that highlighted and promoted children’s right to play while 2,700 individuals participated in the #Sharjahchildfriendly social media competition. The office also participated in the Sharjah Heritage Days and Sharjah International Book Fair and unveiled their upgraded website in 2021.

Training

Employees of SCFO underwent an intensive 38-day training course led by UNICEF in 2021. In total, SCFO staff took part in 108 training courses and workshops last year.

Partners

Throughout 2021, SCFO carried out its programmes and initiatives in partnership with local and international entities including UNICEF, UN Habitat, Sharjah Education Council, Sharjah Private Education Authority, Ministry of Community Development, Sharjah Urban Planning Council, and the University of Sharjah.

Source: National Network Communications – NNC