Fun of Dubai fair is teaching children about abuse

Carnival mixes fun and games for parents and youngsters with key messages about signs of abuse and how to report potential problems.

Volunteer Amer Al Za’abi at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children’s “Childhood Carnival” in Dubai, yesterday. The event mixed fun with a serious message about child abuse. Charles Crowell for The National
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DUBAI // More than 1,000 children learnt how to protect themselves from abuse at a family friendly carnival.

The two-day fair yesterday and on Thursday was organised by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children as part of its campaign to protect youngsters.

The organisation is campaigning on the topic because this month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

"In the first day alone about 1,000 children joined the carnival and learnt about the subject," said Shams Al Mehairi, the public relations and partnerships manager at the foundation, yesterday.

"Today more children are coming and many families are stopping by to find out about the activity and the foundation and learn about how to educate children on child abuse."

The campaign, "Protect Childhood, It's Precious", aims to educate parents and empower the public to take action in the prevention of child abuse.

"People have been encouraging us and told us there is really a need for such activities to spread awareness," Ms Al Mehairi said.

The carnival, at Mirdif City Centre, was aimed at children between the ages of 6 and 12. They played games, painted and read books that had key messages about protecting themselves from abuse.

"I volunteered to help organise this event as community work is important, but also because it is important to teach children of their rights," said Amer Al Za'abi, who works for Dubai public prosecution.

"Through my work I hear about many child-abuse cases, therefore this subject is important."

Emirati Fatima Almari, 12, also volunteered. "I love to help people, and in this event I am helping children my age to learn how they can protect themselves," she said.

The carnival included puppet shows and face-painting to entertain children.

Goodie bags were handed out and contained a small exercise book that alerted readers about signs of abuse and included the helpline of the foundation.

Alaa Alshayyah, a mother of three children aged between 2 and 7, said teaching through play would help youngsters learn.

"When children do things with their hands they will remember things much better," she said.

Ms Alshayyah said having such an event helped reach parents who did not know anything about the dangers.

She said she did not know the carnival was being held, but that many families could learn something valuable from the event.

Noor Krishan, a mother of three, said she did not know what the campaign was about but had stopped to give her boys, ages 5 and 6, the chance to play and paint. "I did not know what the carnival was about but it is definitely an area one needs to shed light on," she said. "It is important, especially in the UAE where there are many different nationalities and values."

Her husband, Mohammed Kosa, said such events were good but more had to be done to raise awareness about the subject.

"It is good they are targeting families in malls but they should be reaching out more to schools, not only to educate the children on the issue but, more importantly, also the teachers because they play an important part in educating children," he said.