The results of a field study conducted by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) on "Abuse against children in the UAE society" revealed that 123 out of every 1,000 children in school are exposed to abuse or violence, while such exposure is less in homes where 65 out of every 1,000 children have to suffer such predicament.
The study, conducted on 4,111 students from across the UAE, also showed that male children are the most vulnerable to abuse at home (7.2%), compared to females (5.7%). Similarly, more male children suffer abuse at school (15.1%) than female children (9.3%). Children of the middle stage of education (prep) are the most vulnerable to abuse than children in other stages, whether at home or at school.
The survey results were revealed at a press conference held by the DFWAC on Wednesday morning at its headquarters in Dubai. Her Excellency Afra Al Basti, Director General of DFWAC, and Sheikha Al Mansouri, Assistant Director-General for Corporate Support, Maryam bin Theneya, Communication Director were present on this occasion.
Badriah Al Farsi, Programme and Research Director, and Aisha Al Midfa, Programme and Research Officer, announced the results of the study along with Dr Fakir Al Gharaibeh, Associate Professor at the University of Sharjah.
Afra Al Basti emphasized that this study is an important milestone in the fight against violence towards children. Experts have often been hampered by shortage of sufficient data and studies about violence within the UAE. This study describes ways to deal with this phenomenon by highlighting all the points that require more work and focus in the coming period.
She added that the DFWAC has now presented the results of this study for the benefit of all the stakeholders in the field of care and protection of children since all efforts of the foundation are aimed at serving the UAE and its community members. The foundation is willing to reach out to all those willing to cooperate with it to achieve the same goal.
Al Basti pointed out that the responsibility of confronting the phenomenon of child abuse is one that must be shared by all members of the community, and advocated that all individuals should positively participate by communicating with DFWAC through the helpline 800 111 to report any case of abuse, and educate their children on how to deal with such cases.
Badria Al Farsi said during the press conference that the results of the study indicate that 5.7% of Emirati children are exposed to abuse in the home and 11.5% of them are subjected to abuse when at school.
She added that the death of both parents is one reason that could lead to a child's exposure to abuse, whether at home or school, as the child who lives with his parents is less vulnerable than others. The child who lives with his mother only is more likely to be exposed to abuse at home, while the child who lives with the father only is the most vulnerable to abuse at the school.
Al Farsi explained that the study sample included 4,111 children of Emirati nationals and expatriates in the private schools in the UAE falling within the age group 10-18 years, or from the fifth grade to XII, and included 50.6% males and 49.4% females, studying in a total of 39 private schools.
She added that this study was aimed at determining the prevalence of abuse against the children of citizens and residents in homes and schools in the United Arab Emirates, and to come up with appropriate proposals to ensure protection of children and prevention of various types of abuse.
Al Farsi emphasized that this study is the largest national study in terms of sample size to discuss the subject of child abuse involving wards of citizens and residents of the United Arab Emirates, and is the first study in which the state is seeking to know the magnitude, types and forms of this phenomenon.
She added that the study will prove to be an important reference for decision-makers in the field of child protection in the UAE, and will also pave the way for the first efforts towards the development of education and fight against violence and child abuse programs. It also highlights the efforts of the UAE in the face of this global phenomenon in the light of the UAE's commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its quest to activate the same on the ground. It also highlights the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children's efforts to protect and prevent children and families from violence and not allow such a menace to spread in the community.
Referring to the family, the study recommended preparing family-oriented awareness programs on child rights, making families aware about the most appropriate pedagogical methods of child-rearing and correct upbringing without resorting to violence and abuse. Also, in the school area, it recommended strict laws to deal with all types of abuse within the school.
The study also recommended organising workshops for teachers and specialists to identify the indicators of violence and child abuse to help one intervene in time and help the children, as well urged social workers and school management to take ownership and develop skills to deal with cases of abuse against children and to raise awareness about the importance of reporting these cases, besides formulating a program of action to combat the problem of bullying in schools.
The study called for increased community awareness about the issue of violence and child abuse and about help lines for reporting these cases. It also called for making competent institutions dealing with cases of violence and child abuse more responsive in registering reports of child abuse and taking appropriate action on each such communication to ensure that the child has access to the best and most effective services to protect them from violence and abuse.
It also recommended equipping competent institutions to provide appropriate treatment programmes and training specialists on the best methods and skills to deal with the cases, and put the results of the study before the concerned authorities in all the Emirates and take this up with all those responsible private education institutions to become a pillar for reform and develop radical solutions to these problems.
The study also called for the establishment of a national observatory for the application of child protection legislation and follow-up to receive complaints besides ensuring participation of civil society organizations working in the field of childhood and children's participation and make these a key element in the formation of this observatory.