Sharjah Child Friendly Office showcases emirate’s pioneering family-friendly initiatives athigh-level women’s forum

2nd edition of the ‘Quwa: Empowering Women in Research and Innovation’forum
was organised by University of Sharjah on August 26coinciding with Emirati Women’s Day

For immediate release

Sharjah, August 29, 2021

The Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), showcased its pioneering Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly (SBFF) project which presents a holistic approach to meaningfully advance and implement gender-centric and work-centric policies to create a family-friendly communityin the emirate at the Second Forum for Women in Research titled ‘Quwa: Empowering Women in Research and Innovation’ organised by the University of Sharjah.

Held as part of the ArabWIC 2021 Conference Series, on August 26, coinciding with Emirati Women’s Day, the forum hosted leading professionals involved in scientific research on projects of strategic importance to the nation across institutions in the public and private sectors.

SCFO’s participation highlighted the emirate’s successful efforts, over the past decade, to upgrade its Sharjah Baby Friendly Project to the Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly (SBFF) Project, bringing parents, families, and other caregivers within its ambit in recognition of the important role they play in the promotion, protection and support of childhood development.

Discussions also centered on SCFO’s intensified efforts to nurture family friendly polices during COVID-19 crisis, highlighting the best practices to build a better, resilient, and sustainable society and which could boost Sharjah’s endeavours to become the first family-friendly city in the region.

Family friendly polices pay off

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, shed light on how family friendly policies underpinned by inclusivity and equity such as paid parental and sick leave, breastfeeding support, affordable and quality childcare, and flexible work arrangements, amongst others, have proven beneficial to children and working parents, especially women, and brought about business benefits as well.

Dr. Al Ghazal stated that staff of organisations practicing family friendly policies were more engaged and less stressed, resulting in enhanced satisfaction levels. “Research has shown that family friendly policies increase workplace satisfaction by reducing parenting stress and promoting parental wellbeing, which ultimately leads to healthier families and children. More than 94% of companies that offered flexible working hours and/or family-friendly arrangements reported higher employee satisfaction. They also reported 78% increase in employee retention; 71.9% higher employee engagement; 65.2% increase in productivity; 60.1% improvement in recruitment; 50.1% increase in diversity; 47.2% more women in leadership positions; and 33.7% increase in profits. They not only help individuals achieve a healthy and productive work-life balance, these policies have had positive impact on families and have become even more relevant as we’ve lived through the Covid-19 pandemic for the past 18 months.”

SBFF’s Covid-19 awareness initiatives

SCFO Executive Director detailed SBFF’s campaigns to raise awareness on how to cope with the new normal in the context of Covid-19.  “SCFO participated in a series of educational events and workshops designed for children, young people, and parents. We also launched an awareness campaign targeting hospitals, health centers and the local community advising mothers who tested positive for Covid-19 to continue breastfeeding, following all recommended safety precautions.”

Moreover, SCFO started a community awareness campaign themed ‘Parenting and Covid-19’, to help parents and families find novel ways of coping with Coronavirus-related challenges, and to provide them with accurate and reliable information.

Family-friendly policies and Covid-19

Pointing out the increasing relevance of implementing family-friendly policies in times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Al Ghazal said the situation called for a collaborative effort involving governments, academia, private sector and other partners concerned to pilot, evaluvate and scale innovative approaches and service delivery platforms for remote work.

“While some negatives have been reported regarding working from home, or remote work, we should look at turning the challenges into opportunities,” said Dr Al Ghazal. “The business sector can explore how remote working including virtual or mobile meetings, online training and delivery of support and supervision services can enhance their activities while at the same time utilising family-friendly policies to enhance the lives of their employees.”

Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly Project

Emphasising on the need for companies to commit to family-friendly policies, Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazalsaid: “SCFO’s significant achievements reflect the sustained efforts of the emirate of Sharjah in proactively addressing the challenges faced by new generations of children and youth while also raising community and family awareness about their rights and needs.”

Charting the six milestones achieved during the process of upscaling the Sharjah Baby Friendly Project into the Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly Project, the SCFO Executive Director said: “The project first took shape as the Sharjah Baby Friendly Campaign established under an Emiri Decreein 2011. It was launched as the Sharjah Baby Friendly Project in March 2012 under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi. The project was instrumental in Sharjah winning the first Baby Friendly City Award instituted by WHO and UNICEF, in 2015. The launch of the Sharjah Child Friendly Project followed in 2016.The success of this project can be gauged by the fact that it led to Sharjah winning the UNICEF ‘Child Friendly Cities Initiatives’ Award in 2019. To bring parents, families and caregivers within its fold to aid in promoting, protecting and supporting childhood development, SCFO upgraded and launched it as the Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly Project on March 15, Emirati Children’s Day, 2020.”

Speaking about the ways the SBFF project benefits women, Dr Al Ghazal said: “By encouraging the implementation of family-friendly polices at the workplace, SBFF helps women in the UAE to effectively assume their responsibilities, accomplish more and hold leadership positions. As more and more companies embrace flexibility by adopting family-friendly policies, it will create additional opportunities for women’s advancement at the workplacewhile still allowing them to prioritise their families on other areas of their lives.”