Consolidating its role as an international partner in promoting child-friendly policies and actions, the Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO) has represented the UAE and shared knowledge, best practices and ideas at the 10th Child in the City Conference 2022 (CiTC) that concluded on October 7, 2022 in Dublin, Ireland. SCFO, a subsidiary of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), joined global child professionals, city planners, academics, urban designers, and other stakeholders to engage in dialogue on ways to make cities better places for children. “The three-day conference was held under the theme, “Making Connections”. During its participation at the Dublin conference, SCFO shed light on its continuous efforts in making children’s rights mainstream in urban planning and a friendly place with public and open spaces for children of all backgrounds. Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director, SCFO, one of the key international speakers at the conference, presented the latest projects and initiatives implemented by the entity. She also highlighted SCFO‘s evolution as a global role model for child-friendly practices which led to it being conferred with its second concurrent ‘UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) Inspire Award’ last year. FIELD VISITS Preceding the international conference, the SCFO delegation, led by its Executive Director Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, visited schools and other childfriendly projects in the Irish capital to learn about Ireland’s best practices in protecting child rights and creating child-friendly and nurturing institutions. SCFO‘s visit to schools in Cork, Ireland, was held under The Child Rights Schools programme initiated by UNICEF. Lydia McCarthy, Rights Respecting Schools Award Coordinator, UNICEF representative, led the delegates and introducedthem to the ‘whole school approach’ to Child Rights Education, which embeds respect for rights throughout the school on an everyday basis. The Cork schools visit was aimed at demonstrating how children are supported to become active participants in learning and in school decision-making. On October 6, the SC FO delegation met with representatives of Comhairle na nOgYoung People’s Parliament comprising child and youth councils in the 31 local authorities in Ireland. At the meeting at City Hall in the presence of the conference delegates, the youth voiced their concerns on decisions affecting their lives. The 10th edition of the conference was attended by various social organisations from across Europe, Africa and Asia. Participants discussed strategies connecting children’s participation to urban policies, health and play, and children’s mobility and sustainable futures. Commenting on its participation at the 10th CiTC, Dr. Al Ghazal said “Since its inception, SCFO has been dedicated to fulfilling the important directives set by our esteemed leaders, and we will continue to help shape pioneering strategies to create friendly play spaces and inspiring cities to raise our children. “We are also focusing on child-friendly urban planning and how to better support the youth to give them platforms to share their opinions and voices.” The Executive Director said that SCFO‘s evolution as a global leader in the advancement of child rights and policy stems from its efforts in developing Sharjah as a childfriendly city and providing a framework of action to promote the highest quality of life for all citizens. Established in 2016 under the directives of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness She ikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SCFA, the entity has made tremendous strides in creating some of the world’s best conditions for children. Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

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