x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

'They never gave up on me': Inside the RAK shelter rehabilitating victims of violence

The Aman Centre for Women and Children provides sanctuary from troubled lives

Khadija Mohammad Alaajil Al Tenaiji, manager of the Aman Shelter for Women and Children in Ras Al Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National 
Khadija Mohammad Alaajil Al Tenaiji, manager of the Aman Shelter for Women and Children in Ras Al Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National 

Hope, time to heal and a second chance – these are the gifts given to the residents of Aman Centre for Women and Children in Ras Al Khaimah.

The centre offers respite, solace and training to vulnerable members of society – victims of abuse, violence and human trafficking.

Many have been integrated back into society after rehabilitation and receiving legal aid, while others have been sent back to their home countries to start over.

One woman said the centre helped her learn a trade and begin a new life.

She no longer feels powerless, afraid or unsafe.

“I didn’t like being there at first and I was afraid to talk or even deal with anyone, but they kept trying and didn’t give up on me,” she said.

“That made me co-operate with them and start my rehabilitation journey.

“They helped me get back on my feet after I lost hope, encouraged me to participate in the make-up tutorial sessions and cooking classes, offered me the food that I like and bought me some nice clothes to wear.

“I was overwhelmed by their kindness and that made me feel powerful and secure and encouraged me to move forward.

“I’m fully aware of my rights now, ready to re-engage with the community and become financially independent by opening my own beauty salon using the new skills I learnt at the centre.”

The centre was established after a decree from Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, in February last year to battle all forms of human trafficking and abuse of women and children.

It has four rooms that can accommodate 25 women and children, two TV lounges, an activity room with a library and an outdoor playing area for the children.

The manager of the centre, Khadija Al Aajil, said it provided victims with social, legal, psychological, medical and educational care, along with protection.

“We cover all the aspects that could help the victims overcome their situation, understand their rights and believe in a better future,” Ms Al Aajil said.

“We also help to raise awareness among members of society of all forms of violence, abuse and human trafficking.

_________________

Read more:

How to stop abuse against women

Hundreds of children in Fujairah learn about how to spot and report abuse

_________________

“Ordering the establishment of the shelter is proof of a wise leadership and a reflection of the Ruler’s interests and highly appreciated efforts in addressing issues related to human rights and the fight against violence and human trafficking,” she said.

Ms Al Aajil said that forced labour, sexual exploitation and slavery-like practices are considered human trafficking. Only 16 cases of human trafficking involving 28 victims were reported last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation revealed earlier this year.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said at the time that the figures highlighted the UAE’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights and combatting human trafficking.

It has been suggested that maids, who are mistreated, run away and become vulnerable to being forced into the sex industry. And at risk children can be forced to turn to brothels or begging on the streets.

““We deal with all cases in total secrecy and support them through the investigation process, whether at the police station, prosecution or court, and provide them with legal defence,” Ms Al Aajil said.

Violence can come in many forms and can happen at work, school or at home.

“If it’s a family matter, we try to solve it with the help of the police and find solutions.

“If the victim is non-Emirati and wishes to go back to her country, we provide her with financial support that can help her to start a small business and buy her a return ticket.

“We also provide them with financial support to help their families and buy what they need during their stay at the centre.”

The centre provides its residents with training in cooking, handicrafts, painting, sewing and business skills.

“It’s important to equip them with new skills, give them the opportunity to find their passion and the chance to become independent,” said Badreyya Al Shahi, one of the social workers at the centre.

Awareness campaigns were launched this year to highlight the services provided.

The management is now preparing brochures in several languages, including Urdu, Tagalog, Arabic and English, to reach large segments of society, along with videos to be screened in public places.

The centre will launch a hotline next year, and many more initiatives to reach everyone in the emirate.

“For the time being we are focusing on children who are attending summer camps around the emirate,” Ms Al Aajil said.

“We are also planning to add a gymnasium room to the centre.”

Victims can stay at the shelter from one day to six months.

“Our aim is to rehabilitate women and children, re-engage them with the community and find them fast solutions,” Ms Al Aajil said.

To report a case of human trafficking or violence, contact the centre on 07 222 8878 or email them at info@aman.rak.ae.