Emirati Children's Day was observed today, an occasion to remind ourselves of the great steps this country has taken to ensure the safety of children and the sanctity of childhood. It is also a time to celebrate the strides this country continues to take, a point reflected in a range of activities being staged across the UAE, including the forthcoming Mother of the Nation festival in Abu Dhabi.
As Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, remarked in a booklet released by the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood: “The UAE has always and continues to embrace children. Since its union was founded 46 years ago, the UAE has offered great attention to children as they are considered one of the inherent values of the Emirati society, thus, providing them with leading education and healthcare, the fundamentals of establishing a developed, harmonious and safe society.” This was work that was begun by the country’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, who said that people are the real asset of any nation.
Thursday also marked the second anniversary of the issuance of Federal Law 3 of 2016 on Child Rights, a piece of legislation that became widely known as Wadeema’s Law. Now is also a time to remember her story, which is one of the most painful in this country’s history. An eight-year-old girl, Wadeema was tortured by her father, Hamad Al Shirawee, and his girlfriend, Alanoud Al Amri. She died after an especially severe attack. Al Shirawee and Al Amri were subsequently brought to justice and are both now serving life sentences in prison. Wadeema's death led to the enactment of the child rights law, a comprehensive document designed to protect children against abuse, neglect and violence.
The country’s leadership is aware that the protections afforded by law mean little without the support of the community, which is why policy is matched with an understanding that all of us have a role to play. The law that bears Wadeema’s name and the introduction of Emirati Children’s Day are just two parts of a broader strategy to ensure she will never be forgotten.