Dubai Foundation for Women and Children teaches students to protect themselves by identifying, fighting and reporting crime
|Afra Al Basti during a seminar about human trafficking|
BY MARY ACHKHANIAN, STAFF REPORTER
Dubai: Efforts to stem child abuse in Dubai are producing results, say front line workers fighting the problem.
Afra Al Basti, Director-General of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC), said her organisation recorded a 26 per cent drop in the number of cases of children being abused from 2013 to 2014.
“The number of abused children that were sheltered in DFWAC decreased during the past year (2014) compared to 2013. We received 42 victims of child abuse in 2013, while in 2014 the number dropped to 31,” said Afra, adding that no social group in particular is responsible for child abuse and that victims of child abuse are from various nationalities.
One of the key elements in preventing child abuse is educating teachers, parents and young children.
Ongoing awareness efforts by the foundation have been aimed at teaching young schoolchildren to protect themselves by being able to identify, fight, and report child abuse in different situations.
For example, a Foundation initiative has targeted 14 kindergarten classrooms in various parts of Dubai and to include workshops to educate more than 560 students.
Prevention is better than cure, insisted Afra, especially when the message is delivered to children who are still in their formative years.
“Preventing child abuse should begin at an early age because the first five years are the most important part of a child’s life. Their personality is being shaped throughout that stage and it can affect the way they turn out to be in the future.”
Child abuse can take several forms, she explained, and include physical, verbal/emotional, sexual, or child neglect — all of which could lead to several negative effects on children ranging from depression and anxiety, isolation and withdrawal, shame and guilt, aggressiveness and impulsiveness, along with a decline in academic performance.
“Physical abuse includes hitting, shaking, slapping, burning, and leaving a mark on the child’s body, verbal/emotional abuse includes shouting, threatening, insulting, undermining, blaming, judging and intimidating. As for sexual abuse, it includes inappropriate touches, rape, watching pornography or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution. Child neglect is when the basic needs of a child are not met and when supervision by parents or the caregivers are absent.”
Afra believes the main causes of child abuse vary, with the most common involving wrong discipline methods.
Other common causes of child abuse are related to the personal history of the abuser, she added. “The abuser can be an alcoholic, drug addict, or may have been regularly abused as a child.”
Through the three different workshops DFWAC are holding this year at 14 kindergartens, Afra said it will give children wider options to protect themselves and will teach parents and professionals how to monitor any signs that indicate children’s exposure to any kind of abuse.
“In the workshops targeting children, titled ‘My body is mine’, we are trying to teach them more about their body parts and what constitutes a good touch and a bad touch. Through plays, we teach them how to protect themselves by either screaming, saying ‘no’, running away, or informing a trusted adult like a family member, teacher or social worker.”
The parents’ workshop, on the other hand, she said, clarifies important definitions such as child abuse and children’s rights.
“We provide a detailed explanation on children’s rights and use Maslow’s pyramid for human needs. We also explain the types of abuse, signs and symptoms, the long term and short term effects of child abuse on the child, family and community. We also teach them about parenting styles and the impact of each style on children personalities. In addition to all of that, we explain the role of DFWAC and how parents can seek our help.”
The teachers’ workshops are also similar to the parents’ workshops, she continued, but they try to provide teachers with enough skills to identify victims of child abuse, support them, and deal with them.
“All the workshops are being handled by experts and professionals on the topic.”
“DFWAC’s main aim is to reach a community free of violence and abuse, especially against women and children, and for that purpose it is providing a modern shelter with high end services to rehabilitate the victims of abuse of children,” Afra said.
She said the first workshop at Al Huda Kindergarten saw the participation of 22 children and 15 teachers and administrative staff. “We noticed that everyone was very active in their participation, so we think it went really well. It is very important for us to be patient with the children and use different methods to make them understand the concepts. By incorporating different activities, they were able to get more engaged.”