x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Women's and children's rights to undergo analysis by Unicef

The regional director of the UN children's agency says the analysis will help shape Government strategies and policies.

Sigrid Kaag, speaking in Abu Dhabi, cited road safety, protection and health issues.
Sigrid Kaag, speaking in Abu Dhabi, cited road safety, protection and health issues.

ABU DHABI // An in-depth analysis due early next year will provide the Government with a more complete picture of the state of children's and women's rights in the country, according to the regional director of the UN children's agency. The Unicef-backed study, known as a situation analysis, was expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year and would be used to shape national strategies and policies, said Sigrid Kaag, whose visit to the UAE ends today.

"The situation analysis is really a stock-taking of the situation of women and children," she said. "In the UAE, it's an opportunity to say how well are women and children of the UAE doing. It is really saying, 'This is the state of play today, here are potential areas for further improvement'." While the UAE has achieved a great deal on children's rights, according to Ms Kaag, there are emerging issues that still need to be addressed, including road safety, protection and health problems, such as obesity.

One area where Unicef sees room for improvement is in the collation of accurate and up-to-date data on children's rights. "This is the same for all Gulf countries," she said. "The data gap is significant and without the data, of course, it is much harder to speak from an informed basis." The situation analysis will try to "unearth" all relevant information available, as well as conduct new research where needed. Apart from the need for more statistical information, Ms Kaag expects the analysis to recommend more action on parenting practices and violence.

The General Women's Union (GWU) is spearheading the analysis, with information being compiled through technical groups and consultants. When it is completed, it is expected to be made public. On Monday, Ms Kaag met Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the chairwoman of the GWU and the Family Development Foundation (FDF). During their meeting, Ms Kaag presented Sheikha Fatima with a special plaque for her commitment to children's issues.

"I wanted to thank particularly Her Highness Sheikha Fatima for her patronage, her immense leadership and the support she has given throughout the years to issues of the well-being of children and women," she said. "Without her significant personal contribution and the sort of commitment she demonstrated all of these years, we understand we would not have achieved the same results." The GWU is Unicef's primary partner in the UAE. Unicef is helping the union prepare a national childhood strategy.

With the draft Child Rights Law being considered, Ms Kaag said that, once passed, the new legislation would represent a "big breakthrough". "We've offered our time and knowledge to look at the draft law," she said. "We're happy to help further fine tune it and make sure that it is aligned with international norms and standards." But she also stressed that Unicef's role in the UAE was different from what it was in many other countries, where efforts are focused on the provision of humanitarian assistance. Here, Unicef focuses more on the provision of expertise and knowledge.

"In Sudan, we are helping to build the schools and the education system," she said. "Here, we're trying to find out what the education system could do more of to help meet children's needs. That is sort of the spectrum along which we can work as an international organisation. The dialogue with the UAE is at the latter end of the spectrum." Ms Kaag also noted the generosity of the UAE and other Gulf states when it comes to responding to humanitarian crises.

"We also want to ensure that the forgotten crises - be it from the current situation in Gaza to Yemen, or the children of Sudan - that we continue to highlight these situations as well," she said. zconstantine@thenational.ae