28 September 2022

Fighting child abuse in UAE: What centre did when 3-year-old sustained fire injuries after being left home alone

Since its inception, a centre in Abu Dhabi has handled over a thousand cases of human trafficking, domestic violence, and family disputes


Over the last couple of years, more than 740 cases of child abuse, domestic violence and family disputes have been lodged at a humanitarian care centre in Abu Dhabi.

One of these cases is that of a three-year-old girl who sustained serious injuries in a fire incident —after being left home alone.

The girl was taken to the Abu Dhabi Centre for Sheltering and Humanitarian Care —Ewaa, which ensured that she was able to get proper medical care.

Her mother was arrested and charged with neglect. It was then the Ewaa staff who took care of the toddler, accompanying her to regular health checks and helping her recover overall.

Counsellors encouraged the child to express herself through play and art. They used behavioural psychotherapy tools to understand her state of mind and help her overcome the emotional trauma she had suffered.

Ewaa also arranged for the child’s paternal grandmother and aunt to speak to her through video calls and even visit her while she was at the shelter.

The centre also provided the child with legal assistance by helping her renew her passport.

Ewaa had collaborated with the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and Daman, which covered the girl’s healthcare needs.

The child is now lives with her paternal grandmother, following a court ruling on her custody.

The UAE’s Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 concerning child rights, also known as Wadeema’s Law, protects children under the age of 18 from all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses.

Violating this law can lead to a prison sentence, a fine or both. Neglecting a child to the extent their physical being is in danger amounts to child abuse. Children who experience abuse can grow up to have social and emotional issues.


Family dispute: Helping a teenager who ran away twice

Since its inception, Ewaa has handled over a thousand cases. Another success story involved a 14-year-old girl had fled her home twice, leaving her widowed mother worried for her safety.

The mother approached Ewaa for help, claiming that the girl’s paternal grandmother was influencing her daughter to rebel against her.

She was concerned that her teenager may not be safe at her grandma’s house, surrounded by uncles and cousins with criminal records.

Ewaa’s therapists spoke to the girl at length and understood that her mother’s suspicions were correct. The girl underwent individual counselling sessions as well family sessions, which included the grandmother.

After a few sessions, the teenager expressed a desire to return to her mother and siblings.

Currently, the teenager is with her mother and siblings, happy and content. Ewaa continues to stay in touch with the family to ensure there is no more conflict.

According to Ewaa, a broken family can be the root of several social problems. The UAE gives family ties utmost importance. In 2019, the country launched the Family Protection Policy to strengthen social ties among UAE’s families and communities.


Domestic violence: Young woman abused for wanting to pursue higher education

In the third case, a young woman wanted to pursue her higher education and get a job. But her suspicious father wouldn’t agree. She was confined to her home and was verbally and physically abused, forced to work without pay.

The woman wanted to flee abroad but the Covid-19 pandemic made it difficult for her to leave.

She then contacted Ewaa’s hotline 800 SAVE (800 7283) and went to a shelter.

At the shelter, the woman went through individual psychotherapy sessions to develop and encourage positive thinking. She explored how to set the right goals and plan to achieve them. Ewaa’s therapists also held counselling sessions for the entire family to help them understand the problems and resolve them amicably.

The Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Officers Club then helped the woman get a job.

Ewaa resolved the conflict within the family and reunited them. The centre has also been conducting regular follow-ups with the family.

“When people experience psychological and verbal abuse, they can suffer from low self-esteem. It takes courage and counselling to help people break this pattern of abuse and emerge stronger,” said Ewaa.


Dial 800-SAVE to ask for help

The Abu Dhabi Centre for Sheltering and Humanitarian Care –Ewaa was established in 2008 to provide prompt care, rehabilitation, and empowerment to victims of human trafficking in the UAE. By 2020, it became an affiliate of the Department of Community Development and its mandate expanded to handle cases of violence and abuse in Abu Dhabi.

In accordance with global standards and best practices, Ewaa provides holistic services including reporting, social and psychological rehabilitation, family counselling and legal support in addition to its 24/7 hotline 800-SAVE.

Through programmes and initiatives, it raises awareness and seeks to change the perception in the community towards violence.

Ewaa receives most of the cases from places of worship or through its hotline (800 7283).