SCFO showcases emirate’s successful ‘Right to Play’ initiatives for children at Play 2021 conference

The Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), has showcased to a global audience of leaders, professionals and stakeholders in the children’s development field, Sharjah’s successful experiences and leading initiatives to support and promote children’s right to play, particularly since the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic posed several challenges to their freedom of movement in outdoor spaces.This was during SCFO’s virtual participation at the inaugural edition of ‘Play 2021’, a global conference on children, play and space, held at the University of Birmingham, UK, from July 7-8.Professionals from the public, independent and academic sectors engaged in the research, policy-making and practice of facilitating varied aspects of children’s play attended the two-day event, where they deliberated on the current and emerging issues surrounding children and youth’s right to play. They also shared latest research, policy responses, and examples of good practice. The experts deliberated on furthering the agenda for universally child-friendly, playable neighbourhoods, towns, and cities, within the common framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and the UNCRC’s General Comment 17 (2013) with due consideration given to the challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic.Joining a stellar line-up of speakers at Play 2021’s plenary sessions, Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), outlined the emirate’s journey as the region’s first UNICEF-recognised Child-Friendly City since 2018. Presenting Sharjah’s comprehensive vision for development ensuring a sustainable, bright future for children and youth, Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal spoke about SCFO’s ‘Children’s right to play’ campaign launched on March 15, Emirati Children’s Day, via a social media competition aimed at educating the public on the importance of play, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Endorsed by 114 schools, 16 nurseries and 40 public entities, more than 200 children had participated in the virtual competition.The ‘Children’s right to play’ campaign had taken centrestage at SCFO’s interactive pavilion at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival held in May, educating visitors about the importance of unstructured play as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in alignment with the UAE Child Protection Law (Wadeema Law). A 1-minute audiovisual on the topic enthralled millions, as did an Instagram competition that had generated more than 1,500 stories.Speaking at a session titled UAE City of Sharjah reaffirms ‘Children’s right to play’ by launching a ‘Play Campaign’ on the opening day of the conference, Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal said: “Sharjah, the leading emirate in the United Arab Emirates has built a significant experience in securing and promoting the rights of the child, and in creating secure, holistic and stimulating environments where they can nurture their talents and realise their full potential.”She added: “This brilliant conference that has convened global stakeholders in the fields of children’s rights advocacy and development to discuss their local experiences in the fundamentally important aspect of ‘children’s play’, particularly in context of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the ideal platform for us at the Sharjah Child Friendly Office to showcase our latest efforts and learn from your methodologies and experiences. Let us continue to work collaboratively to improve the lives of children and youth, enabling them to become productive members of their communities.”

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