SCFO marks a successful decade of upholding Sharjah’s status as a nurturing environment for families

On Emirati Children’s Day, Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO) reaffirms commitment to strengthen Sharjah’s status as a child, youth, and family-friendly city

The Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, marks the celebration of Emirati Children’s Day on March 15 with a renewed commitment to champion the rights of children to a healthy, safe, and supportive environment to enhance their development. SCFO continues its decade-long journey to promote and sustain the emirate as a child, youth, and family-friendly city through collaborations and partnerships with local and international entities.

SCFO’s tireless efforts over the past decade through progressive initiatives earned it numerous accolades as well as widespread international visibility. Most recently, SCFO won the prestigious UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) Inspire Award for the second time in 2021, after having been crowned previously in 2019.

SCFO’s tireless efforts over the past decade through progressive initiatives earned it numerous accolades as well as widespread international visibility. Most recently, SCFO won the prestigious UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) Inspire Award for the second time in 2021, after having been crowned previously in 2019.

A decade of milestones
In 2015, Sharjah achieved the first Baby-Friendly City title while in May 2018, the emirate was recognised by UNICEF as a Child-Friendly City, making it the first city in the Middle East and the first in the world to earn the title, under the initiative’s updated criteria. By October the following year, Sharjah had taken home its first UNICEF CFCI Inspire Award.

SCFO also broke the Guinness World Record in 2019 for ‘Most people in a photo cutout board picture’. The photograph, captured during the Sharjah Carnival for Children and Youth, depicted 72 people in front of a 50-metre-high wall at Majaz Amphitheatre, and decorated with illustrations reflecting the basic rights of children, as indicated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

SCFO’s continued growth was affirmed in February 2020 when the entity was awarded the ISO 9001:2015 certification for Quality Management Systems and ISO 26000:2010 certification for Guidance on Social Responsibility.

A friendly city for every segment of the community
Over the past decade, SCFO has designed and implemented strategies to ensure that the rights of children and youth of all ages and nationalities – including children of determination – are met, to bolster Sharjah’s status as a family-friendly city.

In June and July 2021, SCFO carried out field visits to eight destinations in Sharjah to prepare for accreditation as a Baby and Family Friendly City. The year 2021 also saw SCFO’s launch of the ‘Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning’ at Expo 2020 Dubai in October. The pioneering design guide, which puts children at the heart of urban planning, is underpinned by 10 principles: Equitable spatial distribution with adequate quantity; Universal design and safe spaces; Promote participatory approaches; Be climate-responsive; Design at human scale; Plan for play; Promote walking and cycling; Promote health gains; Integrate culture, history and heritage; and Plan for maintenance and sustainability.

On December 13, SCFO showcased its bold vision for the future of education at RewirEd, a global education summit held at Expo 2020 Dubai, with the unveiling of a comprehensive set of standards that align with global best practices and are designed to transform schools and nurseries in the emirate into child-friendly centres of learning and growth.

A family-friendly world destination|
Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, lauded the entity’s efforts over the past decade to engage with and involve the community in supporting the rights of children and youth through its various campaigns and initiatives.

Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal said: “Sharjah is recognised today as a place where families can live happy, healthy, safe, and productive lives. The accessible and inclusive infrastructural spaces in the emirate are bringing together families, friends, and members of all communities to enjoy the comprehensive amenities in the fields of culture, entertainment, and the arts. This is a remarkable feat considering the ongoing changes in lifestyles where there is greater focus on online social interaction.”

The Executive Director added: “Sharjah’s achievements in social infrastructure are the culmination of deliberate planning and collaboration between all concerned departments and institutions who are committed to responding to and meeting the needs of children, youth and families. These coordinated efforts have greatly enriched the cultural landscape of Sharjah. As well as being home to inclusive public spaces and community destinations, the emirate fosters several capacity development initiatives that are further strengthening and sustaining the status of Sharjah as a family-friendly destination.”

Al Ghazal concluded: “As we march towards the next 10 years, we will be intensifying our efforts over the next few months to launch a new initiative in cooperation with our national and international partners that benefits children, youth and families in Sharjah, and bolsters the emirate’s status as a city suitable for all members of the community.”

Strategic partners

Since its inception, SCFO has carried out its programmes and initiatives in strategic partnership with local and international entities including UNICEF, UN Habitat, Sharjah Education Council, Sharjah Private Education Authority, Ministry of Community Development, Sharjah Urban Planning Council, and the University of Sharjah.

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