Dubai youngsters paint a clear picture of rights for every child

A Dubai-wide competition sponsored by the Community Development Authority (CDA) encourages students to think critically about children's rights.

Ishrat Razia of Pristine Private School won third place in her age category at the Human Rights Student Contest Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI // Ishrat Razia thought of the plight of her young compatriots in Bangladesh when asked to draw a picture about children's rights.

"Bangladesh is a country where poverty is really usual so children don't get their rights," said Ishrat, 16. "I would like everyone to help these kids to have a better education."

The Grade 10 pupil at Pristine Private School drew a colourful tableau of children working in the street and studying.

Her art won third place in her age category in an emirate-wide competition that encouraged students to think critically about children's rights.

Sponsored by the Community Development Authority (CDA), the second annual Human Rights Student Contest included 88 government, private and special-needs schools in Dubai.

The competition was divided into an arts section - with painting, calligraphy and photography categories - and a literature section, for short stories and articles in Arabic.

The CDA received 504 entries and picked 40 winners.

"This is a huge number," said Ayesha Al Marri, director of international cooperation and studies at CDA.

"We've done a lot of work to finalise who will win. We were thinking about giving instead of three places maybe five places, because we've had a lot of very, very good artwork."

Ms Al Marri said she was especially impressed by the work of special-needs pupil Abdulla Ismail, from the Dubai Centre for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled.

Abdulla won two prizes: one for a painting with the words "no to violence against children", and the other for a photograph of a distraught child with an adult's hand clasped over his mouth.

"When I see this picture I feel that I will cry," Ms Al Marri said. "I know a lot of people with disabilities have been in this kind of situation."

The contest focused on children's rights partly because of the upcoming debate on Wadeema's Law, the UAE's first federal child-protection law, said Omar Al Shamsi, chief executive of the CDA's human rights division. The draft is before the FNC.

"We expect the child law will be issued at the end of this year," Mr Al Shamsi said.

The CDA wants to help children understand the law's meaning before then, he said.

Some of the winning images showed happier scenes.

Safa Zakariya, 15, a pupil at Al Rashid Al Saleh Private School, won second place in her category for a watercolour vision of a mother and child in a quiet moment.

"This is the real picture of a mother holding her baby," said Safa, who wanted to show a caring relationship.

Other winning entries were dark.

Zachary Huang, 17, a hearing-impaired pupil at the Westminster School, won second place in his category for a painting of a crying boy with tape covering his mouth and a horn by his ear.

Shamsa Hassan, a pupil at Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein Girls School, painted a girl crouching in a corner with bloody scratches on her legs. A man's shadow looms in the hallway behind her.

The contest enabled students to examine "pressing issues in society", said Padma Unnam, head of information, communication and technology at Pristine Private School.

"It really enhances the thinking skills of students, especially this kind of topic, human rights," Ms Unnam said. "These are the future citizens of the world and they are going to build the nation next."

While some children in the UAE lead charmed lives, it is important that they learn about the needs of others, said Shagufa Kidwai, head of the senior school.

"This gives them a platform to think about the underprivileged," Ms Kidwai said.