SCFO showcases initiatives at top-level women’s forum

The Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), showcased its pioneering Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly (SBFF) project which presents a holistic approach to meaningfully advance and implement gender-centric and work-centric policies to create a family-friendly community in the emirate at the Second Forum for Women in Research titled ‘Quwa Empowering Women in Research and Innovation’ organised by the University of Sharjah. Held as part of the Ara bWIC 2021 Conference Series, on August 26, coinciding with Emirati Women’s Day, the forum hosted leading professionals involved in scientific research on projects of strategic importance to the nation across institutions in the public and private sectors. SCFO’s participation highlighted the emirate’s successful efforts, over the past decade, to upgrade its Sharjah Baby Friendly Project to the Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly (SBFF) Project, bringing parents, families, and other caregivers within its ambit in recognition of the important role they play in the promotion, protection and support of childhood development. Discussions also centred on SCFO’s intensified efforts to nurture family friendly polices during COVID-I9 crisis, highlighting the best practices to build a better, resilient, and sustainable society and which could boost Sharjah’s endeavour to become the first family-friendly city in the region. Speaking at the conference, Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, shed light on how family friendly policies underpinned by inclusivity and equity such as paid parental and sick leave, breastfeeding support, affordable and quality childcare, and flexible work arrangements, amongst others, have proven beneficialto children and working parents, especially women, and brought about business benefits as well. Dr Al Ghazal stated that staff of organisations practising family friendly policies were more engaged and less stressed, resulting in enhanced satisfaction levels. “Resea rch has shown thatfamily friendly policies increase workplace satisfaction by reducing parenting stress and promoting parental wellbeing, which ultimately leads to healthier families and children. More than 941 of companies that offered flexible working hours and/or family-friendly arrangements reported higher employee satisfaction. They also reported 781 increase in employee retention; 71.91 higher employee engagement; 65.21 increase in productivity; 60.11 improvement in recruitment; 50.13 increase in diversity; 47.21 more women in leadership positions; and 33.71 increase in profits. They not only help individuals achieve a healthy and productive work-life balance, these policies have had positive impact on families and have become even more relevant as we’ve lived through the Covid-19 pandemic for the past 18 months.” SCFO Executive Director detailed SBFF’s campaigns to raise awareness on how to cope with the new normal in the context of COVID-19.”SCF0 participated in a seriesof educational events and workshops designed for children, young people, and parents. We also launched an awareness cam paign targeti ng hospitals, health centers and the local community advisi ng mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 to continue breastfeeding, following all recommended safety precautions.” Moreover, SCFO started a community awareness campaign themed ‘Parenting and COVID-19’, to help parents and families find novel ways of coping with Coronavirus-related challenges, and to provide them with accurate and reliable information. Pointing out the increasing relevance of implementing family-friendly policies in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Al Ghazal said the situation called fora colaborative effort involving governments, academia, private sector and other partners concerned to pilot, evaluvate and scale innovative approaches and service delivery platforms for remote work. “While some negatives have been reported regarding working from home, or remote work, we should look at turning the challenges into opportunities,” said Dr Al Ghazal. “The business sector can explore how remote working including virtual or mobile meetings, online training and delivery of support and supervision services can enhance their activities while at the same time utilising family-friendly policies to enhance the lives of their employees.”

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