Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, has made a strong call for a renewed global commitment urging greater cooperation among world leaders, decision makers, humanitarian organisations and civil society to protect children from being pushed into the world of forced labour, especially at a very young age when they are most vulnerable to exploitation.
Speaking on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi said: “Elimination of child labour requires us to focus attention on the societal triggers of this global epidemic; most notably armed conflicts, poverty, climate change, and limited access to education, welfare, and one’s rights. The benefits of ending child labour are immeasurable. Children who are free from the burden of child labour are able to fully realize their rights to education, leisure, and healthy development, and in turn become the very foundations of a just, equitable society for future generations.”
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher shed light on the dismal International Labour Organisation (ILO) child labour statistic, according to which 168 million children are forced into child labour. “Children are not only being exploited as forced labourers; they are subjected to dangerous environments when they are trafficked or recruited as child soldiers,” she noted.
On the reality of children and youth in the world in view of armed conflicts, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher said: “Reforming the world starts with a happy childhood filled with love and care, as a child’s memory determines the person's characteristics and attitudes, and the rest of their lives. Many social deformities in people emerge out of the emotional deprivation and marginalisation they suffer in the early years of life.
Her Highness added: “The conflicts we see today are led by young people who grew up in broken homes and societies. This signals an immediate need for nations to move much faster with their efforts to build societies in which children’s voices are fully heard, and their rights and aspirations are protected. How can we ask the youth to give back to society if we don’t nurture them or embrace their dreams when they are dependent on us for support and direction?”
Last month, Sharjah was named a ‘Child- Friendly City’ (CFC) by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in recognition of its outstanding efforts and accomplishments in the protection and promotion of children's rights. Three years prior to this recognition, Sharjah was named ‘Baby-Friendly City’ by the UN and World Health Organisation.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi emphasised: “Being bestowed with the coveted UNICEF title of ‘Child-Friendly City’ is groundbreaking achievement for the Emirati society, not only in Sharjah but in the UAE. This recognition is a result of decades’ worth of efforts and single-minded devotion to children’s welfare by a variety of social actors in the emirate, who were guided by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.”
Sharjah is well known for its many facilities and services that cater specifically to children and families; a reflection of joint efforts by both public and private sector stakeholders to continually offering its children and youth an environment where they feel safe, have access to necessary amenities, can play, learn and grow, and most importantly, where their voice matters.
Preserving Sharjah’s achievements is a collective responsibility
Sheikha Jawaher has highlighted that preserving Sharjah’s international recognition as a Child-Friendly City, is a shared responsibility of public and private institutions as well as civil society. Her Highness has urged community members and organisations to do their best to support and facilitate the conditions necessary to have a positive impact on the growth and welfare of children.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher has requested private organisations and big corporates to abide by rules of mindful consumption and sustainability regulations in order to drive environmental protection and conservation of resources when practicing industrial or commercial activity. She has also stressed on the need for these companies to involve their employees in activities that would teach them to deal with their children more responsible and with greater compassion, in addition to organising cultural, educational and sporting events for children and adolescents.
Highlighting the crucial role of family in building children’s personalities and preserving their rights, Sheikha Jawaher said: “The family remains at the core of the development and success of children. The environment in which children grow up is their window to the world, and leaves an indelible impact on their personalities and their lives. Parents are the biggest influence on their children, and thus, it is their foremost duty to offer the young ones at home a safe, nurturing and stable environment.”
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi shared Sharjah’s vision in protecting the rights of the children in the emirate, which includes protecting their rights to social and economic security; to a clean environment and green spaces, and their enjoyment of sustainable resources; to be part of the decision-making process and policy development by having access to youth centres; access to community incubators, which encourage their talents and offers them creative avenues to express themselves fully; complete knowledge of their national and religious identities; and lastly, to a modern and comprehensive system of education, which will help them identify areas of interest and equip them with the tools necessary to take on leadership roles in the economy.
Over the past 40 years, Sharjah has become home to many centres and institutions concerned with children, working to provide all forms of protection and care for children from early age until they reach adulthood.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour. It calls on the global community to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.