The heart-rending story of Wadeema, an eight-year-old Emirati girl who died of starvation and torture at the hands of her father and his girlfriend in 2012, shook an entire nation at the time the details became public during the court hearings. But unlike in some other countries where such tales would be the topics of endless debates and discussions in media and majlises without resulting in anything concrete, the UAE acted swiftly and decisively, enacting the Wadeema's Law in 2013 (later instituted as Federal Law No. 3 of 2016) to protect minor children (under the age of 18) against all kinds of negligence and abuse. The law came into force on June 15, 2016.
Three years on, the UAE's Child Protection Law is now a beacon of responsibility and accountability, guiding the region and, indeed, the rest of the world on how to go about protecting the rights of all children - whether they're citizens, residents or tourists/visitors. The UAE's law is comprehensive and crystal clear when it comes to safeguarding the interests of the children, not only shielding them against all sort of negligence, exploitation and abuse, but also ensuring that they have access to equal opportunities, without any discrimination, when it comes to appropriate living standards, access to health and essential services, education and other basic facilities.
In true UAE tradition, the country is not stopping at just enacting and enforcing the law, but is now taking proactive steps to inform and engage the core audience. The Community Development Authority (CDA) yesterday introduced a new campaign to raise awareness of the law among teachers, parents, children and social workers. With the core principle of 'no child left behind,' the campaign titled 'My Right' aims at leaving no stone unturned to weed out any child abuse or discrimination. The CDA has joined forces with Unicef and Dubai Judicial Institute to host a series of awareness workshops as part of the campaign. While the authorities are doing all they can, we must realise that protection of children is a joint responsibility and we must all act together to ensure that no more Wadeemas suffer abuse, negligence or discrimination.