Abu Dhabi hosts motherhood and childhood Conference

Published : December 20, 2018 15:05 IST

In the third week of November, Abu Dhabi hosted the first “Fathima bin Mubarak Motherhood and Childhood Forum” along with an “Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities”. Both international events were attended by over 200 foreign delegates representing leading international organisations, including the United Nations, and faith leaders of all the major religions.  The Motherhood and Childhood forum was organised by the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Supreme Council of Motherhood under the patronage of the country’s Queen Mother, Fatima Bint Mubarak.

The inaugural Interfaith Alliance conference was a follow-up of the first Child Dignity in the Digital World conference that was held in the Vatican in 2017. The focus of the conference was on the wellbeing of children in the digital age. Around 4.2 billion people are active users of the Internet today and around 25 per cent are children. The religious leaders who spoke at the conference highlighted the global epidemic of online sex abuse. More than 700,000 pictures of sexual abuse are downloaded every day. “We need to have a robust conversation to keep our children safe”, said Sonya Ryan, founder of the Carly Ryan Foundation. In 2007, her daughter Carly was stalked and killed by an online abuser in Australia at the age of 15

“Every child’s life is precious and every child has a right to dignity and safety,” said Bishop Salib of the Coptic Orthodox Church. “With the advent of the digital age, over 800 million children and adolescents are exposed to criminal behaviour online.”  The Abu Dhabi Declaration issued at the end of the conference stated that maintaining children’s dignity was key to the progress and stability of all societies. The participants in the conference also decided to declare 2019 as the “Year of Child Dignity”.

Sheikha Fatima, wife of the late ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the architect of the UAE, was the moving spirit behind the “Motherhood and Childhood” forum.  After Sheikh Zayed’s demise, the Queen Mother has devoted most of her time to global charity work and the enhancement of the status of women in the region.

The UAE was the first Gulf state to give women positions of power. There are women now occupying important ministerial posts. A woman, Amal al Qubaisi, was recently appointed to the post of Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC). Sheikha Fatima said that she was especially proud to see Emirati woman occupy the highest positions in all walks of life and pointed out that the UAE government had achieved gender balance and granted woman equal rights as men in the workplace. 

Sheikha Fatima was appointed as an “Extraordinary Goodwill Messenger” by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in recognition of her support of issues relating to women at both the international and regional levels. “The most important work that we can undertake as a global society is to improve the health of future generations so that communities can thrive and grow,” she stated recently.

Sheikha Fatima established the first-ever women’s organisation in the UAE. She is the head of the UAE’s General Women’s Council and Chairwoman of its Family Development Council. The council adopted the National Childhood and Motherhood policy with the support of UNICEF to ensure that all children up to the age of 18 enjoy their rights to survival, health, development, good quality, protection from violence and neglect. The UAE government approved a national plan for the “Development of Motherhood and Childhood 2017-21”, under which it is committed to protect the rights of all mothers and children living in the country.

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