‘Child abuse has to be talked about’

Lama Younis, the region’s first female criminologist, has launched a campaign in the UAE and the Middle East to prevent the abuse of youngsters and challenge the stigma that surrounds discussion of the subject in Arab society.

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DUBAI // Lama Younis has made it her mission in life to fight child abuse.

The region’s first female criminologist, Ms Younis has launched a campaign in the UAE and the Middle East to prevent the abuse of youngsters and challenge the stigma that surrounds discussion of the subject in Arab society.

The Lama Campaign is aimed at spreading awareness through education and to encourage action to prevent abuse, especially as cases are rarely reported, she said.

“Child abuse prevention is an issue that’s time has come,” said Ms Younis, 31.

Her work at the Hissah Enrichment Centre in Dubai, which offers psychological support for children and young adults, brought her face to face with many of the social issues that exist in GCC countries but which many people fail to acknowledge.

“The community’s conflicting perceptions of what constitutes abuse and general misconceptions of the damaging social consequences of abuse were evidence of the urgency for action,” Ms Younis said.

With seven full-time staff working on the campaign, Ms Younis hoped its action-orientated and culturally sensitive approach would inspire the community’s commitment to fight abuse and report cases, as well as act as a wake-up call for those who would otherwise hesitate to talk about the issue.

Launched this month as part of Child Abuse Prevention month, her campaign will run throughout the year with workshops for children, teacher training, support groups for parents, distribution of educational booklets and schools and university visits by experts.

“We have just launched so we are still in the first stage of collaboration. We have not signed agreements, we are still designing curriculum for each school or a centre as each have their different mission and vision,” Ms Younis said.

The campaign has been well received by community leaders and businesses who are keen to lend their support.

salamir@thenational.ae