x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Shelter chief honoured for helping victims

Afra al Basti has dedicated the past few years to helping women and children escape violence and other abuse.

Afra al Basti has dedicated the past few years to helping women and children escape violence and other abuse. As chief executive of the UAE's first official shelter for victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking, she has built a haven for those who have nowhere else to turn. On Sunday, Mrs al Basti, an Emirati, was recognised for her work by the Inspire Dubai Awards.

She was voted the Guardian of the Year by a panel of business and community leaders. The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children shelter was also named as the official cause of the awards and received all the money raised at the event. Mrs al Basti said: "It is a true honour for the foundation to receive this award." Foundation staff "have worked long and hard to bring this issue of violence against women and children to the forefront", she said. "The most important thing for us is women and children know that we are here to support them if they feel they are in trouble."

The shelter was opened in Oct 2007 and since has helped a steady stream of women and children seeking refuge. It is the country's only registered and licensed shelter. Staffed by social workers and human rights specialists, it has medical facilities on site. A campaign began in September to encourage people to speak openly about the often taboo topics of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking.

"Issues surrounding abuse are sensitive and often thought to be taboo topics," Mrs al Basti said at the time. "We know that this is a problem in Dubai because we see it on the faces of the women and children who walk through our doors. What we do not see are the women and children who are victimised and suffering in silence." The Inspire Dubai Awards, organised by the ITP Publishing Group, celebrate the achievements of individuals and non-profit organisations for acts of courage that inspire the wider community. The judging panel included Isobel Abulhoul, founder of Magrudy's bookshops; Joseph Ghossoub, chief executive of the Holding Group; and Sunny Varkey, founder and chairman of the GEMS school group.

munderwood@thenational.ae