Jawaher Al Qasimi, an inspiring example of what one individual can do to uplift the world

The recent recognition of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR’s first Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, as the ‘Leading Personality of Social Work’ by the Council of Ministers of Social Affairs in the Gulf Cooperation Countries is a reinforcement of Sheikha Jawaher’s global stature as an exceptional social and humanitarian role model in the region and the world.

Her Highness was awarded the title by the Council of GCC Ministers of Social Affairs in appreciation of her continuous and outstanding social and humanitarian contributions, which have driven sustainable development and societal cohesion across local, regional and international communities.

The prestigious title communicates important messages to change makers, entities and individuals who have dedicated themselves to driving positive social impact, and also raises key questions like, what distinguishes the social work of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi from institutions and personalities that sponsor and support social work at regional and international levels? And, how can this strategic approach of Her Highness be turned into a framework of action to support like-minded individuals and institutions wherever they might be?

The answer to these questions can be found in Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi’s 40-year journey of accomplishments, which began with her establishing the Ladies Park Club that is now the Sharjah Ladies Club (SLC). In 1982, Her Highness also launched several children’s centres focused on developing children’s skills and capabilities, and then went on to establish the Rubu’ Qarn Foundation – the first UAE, Arab and regional initiative to grow an Emirati generation capable of leading and influencing the future.

The initiatives and institutions Her Highness sponsors and supports go beyond providing assistance to refugees or nurturing the talents of youth and children by offering them a supportive ecosystem replete with extracurricular programmes to supplement their academic journeys. They are focused on instilling genuine and authentic human values that are vital to shaping their future.

Her Highness’s achievements are characterised by a unique human-focused approach that travels a comprehensive life cycle of instilling, cultivating and finally reaping the rewards of capable young generations who serve as equal partners in the nation’s developmental journey. This leader and visionary has never wavered from launching innovative programmes that require time, efforts and patience to succeed in enabling the holistic upbringing of successive generations until they become active contributors as leaders and members of the community.

Establishing family as the cornerstone of a healthy society 

Sheikha Jawaher’s focus on family is clearly reflected in the kind of institutions launched and led by Her Highness – the most prominent amongst them being the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), which was established in 2000.

Her Highness adopted the family-focused approach in line with the belief that the advancement of the family means building a vibrant society grounded in their heritage and cultural values, fully equipped to face cultural and economic challenges and protect its identity. A society upheld by a strong family system also translates into a balanced society, which is open to learning from the experiences of other cultures and peoples while having strong roots of its own.

According to Her Highness’s vision, family is not determined by bloodlines only, but signifies a cultural, economic and psychological link between the individual and their society, in addition to functioning as a welcoming environment in which collective ethics and values are formed and exercised.

Towards the end of shaping the community into a big family with common values, Her Highness established many social organisations like the Department of Family Development in 2000 as a key destination for households to overcome the challenges they face and help them find solutions that ensure family cohesion and stability in Sharjah.

Then came Rubu’ Qarn in 2016, and functioned as the umbrella organisation for four affiliates, namely, Sharjah Children, Sharjah Youth, Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, and Sharjah Capability Development. The four institutions are dedicated to nurturing, developing and investing in new generations starting from childhood to youth in compliance with a comprehensive academic, creative, sports and national educational programme aimed at instilling sound values in new generations and developing their skills and their fullest potential.

These capability development institutions clearly reflect Her Highness’s emphasis on developing ecosystems that support long term, sustainable and human-centric development to achieve reliable and guaranteed results. The approach follows the wise vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who believes in achieving cumulative sustainable impact through human development initiatives and in the complementary of efforts to meet national aspirations.

To ensure that the family-focused ecosystem in Sharjah thrives, Sheikha Jawaher developed 25 different entities that focus on four vital sectors: serving children and youth, serving women, serving families, and philanthropic initiatives. Each entity performs dedicated functions to unleash the potential of target groups, broaden their horizons, and find their unique calling in advancing society.

For each of these entities, Jawaher Al Qasimi set the goal of achieving tangible developmental impact, which begins with building individual culture followed by defining their relationship with society and their contributions to building their nation’s future. This is why the entities operating under the directives of Her Highness are considered among the most effective in the region.

The impact of Sheikha Jawaher’s social and humanitarian achievements can also be clearly seen on the international level, where her social contributions are meant to serve all humanity.

Shaping young leaders who are changing the world with art and creativity 

Through FUNN, a Sharjah-based foundation dedicated to promoting media arts among children and youth in the UAE, and its flagship event, the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF), Her Highness underscored the importance of empowering successive generations with the sensibilities required to discern between art and entertainment that serve and enrich their communities from harmful content, and also impart the skills they need to express themselves creatively and artistically through filmmaking that have global appeal and yet are rooted in their own culture and identity.

Another initiative of the SCFA which is unique to the UAE and the region is the Child Safety Department (CSD). Launched in 2011 as the Child Safety Campaign, the initiative was transformed into a full-fledged entity through a decree issued by Her Highness in 2018, which will work dedicatedly to heighten community awareness on the importance of child safety, protection and social stability. The department runs several programmes and campaigns focused on securing children’s physical safety and psychological health.

Fear to fortitude: Initiatives that are breaking barriers to shape healthy communities

Sheikha Jawaher established the UAE-based international civil society organisation, Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP) in 2009 to safeguard the UAE community against cancer through advocacy, raising awareness, free diagnosis and treatment support. FOCP’s leading campaign, Pink Caravan, which is dedicated to raising awareness on the importance of early detection and treatment is a winning example of bringing an entire nation out of fear and building fortitude to fight breast cancer as one, united community. The campaign has promoted socially-minded activities like volunteering and fundraising and has boosted social cohesion.

Following the success of FOCP, Her Highness went on to establish more nonprofits under the umbrella of SCFA’s Health Promotion Department, namely, Friends of Diabetes Patients Association, Friends of Arthritis Patients Society (FAPS), Friends of Kidney Patients Association (FKPA), and the Friends of Breastfeeding Association.

Initiatives that are empowering not just women but entire communities  

Her Highness has revolutionised the women’s empowerment landscape of the region with the creation of leading entities like the Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC), which was established in 2000 and now operates under NAMA Women Advancement (NAMA) alongside two sister organisations, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi) and Badiri Education and Capacity Development (Badiri). From ensuring women have the support they need to turn their ideas into successful businesses to integrating them better within supply chains to empowering UAE’s traditional craftswomen with 21st century skills and helping them rediscover the nation’s traditional crafts through creative collaborations with artisans and designers from around the world, and influencing policy making on both federal and corporate levels to creating inclusive economies and workplaces, these entities work in a variety of sectors to ensure women’s better integration into the economy.

SBWC supports a robust global membership of 2,000+ female business owners from the UAE, Kuwait, the UK, Brazil, and other countries. NAMA has collaborated with global agencies like UN Women to empower more than 340,000 women around the world to participate equally in markets and support economic growth overall. NAMA’s partnership with Education for Employment (EFE) has trained 3,500 Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian youth – 50 percent of them young women, linking them to job opportunities.

These are but a few examples of the efforts made under the directives of Her Highness who is keen to correct the prevailing culture in the field of women’s empowerment by underlining that men do not necessarily stand in the way of it – but social conditioning, ignorance, poverty and fear do. Her Highness links the empowerment of women to the role of society by making it clear that it is not possible to talk about women’s empowerment without talking about the rehabilitation of societies and their culture.

Building sustainable solutions for refugee crises by tackling causes, not consequences

This unconventional approach is also seen in Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi’s humanitarian leadership at The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), which was founded in 2015 as a global organisation to help refugees and those in need worldwide. With TBHF’s humanitarian interventions and initiatives and philanthropic contributions, Her Highness has turned the world’s attention to the need to tackle the root causes of humanitarian crises, not their consequences. On several occasions, Her Highness has reminded the world that several manmade factors have contributed to creating the issue of displacement globally, stressing that they must be addressed while also catering to the non-financial needs of refugees.

Her Highness also attaches great attention to heritage, sports and art as the elements of human civilisation, as they contribute to personality development of individuals and the identity of societies, as well as to building noble relations between nations.

Investing in culture

At the heart of all of Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi’s programmes and initiatives are investments in culture. Her Highness has built a unique model for creating knowledge-based societies that celebrate art and literature, and regard them as essential to shaping the collective consciousness of societies.

Sheikha Jawaher founded SCFA’s Cultural and Media Office to organise exhibitions, artistic and literary events and publish the Marami Magazine, one of the most prominent cultural magazines in the UAE. The office also organises the UAE Women Writers Forum that convenes women authors in an annual meeting to present creative works, and the Emirati Women’s Prize for Literature and Art to support poetry and literature written by women from the GCC, and enrich the region’s culture with a series of literary studies and cultural research, along with festivals, exhibitions and events.

All of Her Highness’s visions, strategies and efforts are rooted in one thing – society. Societies always do better when they have role models who inspire them to prosper. For these reasons and many more, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi honours the ‘Leading Personality of Social Work’ title as much as the title honours her.