In a landmark initiative aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of children, Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), has directed the Child Safety Department (CSD) to establish a protection centre for child victims of physical and sexual abuse.
Titled ‘Kanaf’, meaning protection or care in Arabic, this inter-disciplinary, multi-agency child protection centre in Sharjah will help standardise child protection measures and enable relevant entities to provide integrated referral and treatment services in its state-of-the-art facility, and in a safe, supportive environment.
The directive is part of Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi’s efforts to provide a safe and protective environment for children. Over the past few years, Sheikha Jawahar has been reviewing physical abuse cases and following up on them personally with the relevant departments and institutions in Sharjah.
Child abuse is a social and public health problem and neglect can lead to a wide range of adverse consequences for children involved and their families, as well as the community. It is present in various degrees in communities around the world. Addressing the issue requires privacy in a safe and nurturing environment.
Several studies have revealed that the reason why people hesitate to report cases of physical and sexual abuse is the prolonged investigation process, the physical and psychological trauma involved and the follow-up by various entities.
‘Kanaf’ is inspired by the ‘Barnahus’ model that originated in Iceland in 1998. Literally meaning ‘Children’s Home’, the success of this model in providing prompt legal, psychological, medical services to child-abuse victims, saw more than 50 Barnahus-style centres spring up across the Scandinavian countries.
How Kanaf was founded
In 2015, Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi had visited a Barnahus centre in Sweden. A second visit ensued in 2018 for representatives from Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators, Child Safety Department and the Sharjah Social Services Department. The visit provided the delegation with greater insight into the centre’s pioneering services for child victims of crime and abuse, where they can describe their experiences in a friendly and safe atmosphere for the benefit of investigations led by social services, the police, public prosecutors and mental health experts.
Child Safety Department
The CSD, an affiliate of SCFA, will be responsible for managing the centre. The CSD will also coordinate and supervise its operations, as well as schedule visits and meetings with other local, federal and international child protection entities to implement best international practices.
Kanaf will bring together four key organisations under one roof that will oversee and provide services to victims of abuse. These four organisations are: Sharjah Forensic Administration, Sharjah Public Prosecution, Sharjah Social Services Department’s Children Rights Protection Administration and the Criminal Investigation and Social Support Departments at the Sharjah Police Headquarters.
Major step forward
Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi stressed that Kanaf is a major step forward in promoting social development in Sharjah and reflects the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to enhance the role of social organisations in protecting children’s rights to live in a safe environment, which is vital to ensure their mental and physical health, which are fundamental rights, and instrumental in building a productive and socially conscientious generation.
“Abuse in general, and child abuse particularly, has a grave effect on any society’s culture, values and ethics. Protecting children is all about protecting our future and the values we stand for,” Sheikha Jawaher noted.
An integrated protection platform
Kanaf will be a one-stop platform to conduct interviews with child-abuse victims in a child-friendly space under the supervision of a team of experts.
The establishment of Kanaf stems from a study undertaken by CSD to review the current child protection mechanisms in Sharjah including legal, psychological and social services. Officials at CSD also visited child protection centres abroad to develop its own model aligned with the emirate’s culture and values.