Feb 20, 2019

On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, Her Highness Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Vice President of Supreme Council for Family Affairs & Director General of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS), launched (Disability and Contemporary Challenges in the GCC Countries) workshop.  The UAE Sociologist Association and the Gulf Sociologist Association are organizing this two days’ workshop at Radisson blu Hotel in order to highlight and address these challenges according to the best practices worldwide.

The workshop began with the national anthem of UAE followed by a blessed recitation for some verses from the Holy Quran by Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services student Lubna Maher.  Then, the Chairperson of UAE Sociologist Association Dr. Ahmed Ali Haddad Al-Hazmi delivered a speech in which he confirmed that persons with disabilities have proven their capabilities in facing challenges in every area of life.

He said that United Arab Emirates has worked and still working with all its power to integrate persons with disabilities into society by offering them the services of education, rehabilitation, and job placement.  In addition, the government creates a suitable environment for them and supports their families.

“The UAE Sociologist Association, the Gulf Sociologist Association, and many other similar associations and unions in the gulf region, and Gulf Disability Society have a vital role in supporting persons with disabilities by offering them the opportunity to be members in those organizations and the opportunity to formulate their own organizations” added Dr. Ahmed Ali Haddad Al-Hazmi.

Then, a documentary film about the role of Social Services Unit in Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services was put on display.  Then, Salem Ahmed Al Kaabi, Director of Sheikha Maitha Bint Rashed Al Maktoum Center for Persons with Abilities, delivered a speech on behalf of the main sponsor in which she confirmed that supporting persons with disabilities is a religious, national, and moral obligation.

He also pointed out the great awareness and understanding of United Arab Emirates wise leadership, who get the advantage of challenges to make opportunities in order to make the citizens, residents, and visitors of UAE happy by allocating resources to in order to develop humans.  Offering services to persons with disabilities is a priority for UAE leadership.  The government creates laws and regulations that grant the active participation of persons with disabilities in the society with equal opportunities.

Day one of the workshop included displaying the story of Mrs. Khawla al-Qusayr, (Saif and Maryam’s mother) who are children with disabilities.  After having her first newborn baby boy, she had to quit her job to look after him.  She explained how she received support from Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services in order to go back to work.  SCHS also offered her unlimited support after having her second newborn baby girl.

The President of Gulf Sociologist Association Khalaf Ahmed Khalaf delivered a speech in which he confirmed that organizing this workshop in Sharjah reflects the unity of gulf social work efforts and issues that requires full cooperation by sociologists to address it.  

He said, “The significance of this workshop shows from its theme and objectives”.  He has praised the fruitful cooperation with Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, which is a leading organization in local, regional, and international levels.

Then, Her Highness Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Director General of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, honored sponsors, heads of committees, and those who presented working papers.  Sheikha Jameela received a special honoring from participants for her enormous efforts in including, advocating, and empowering persons with disabilities in every area of life.  

After a short break, the first session, which is entitled (Civil society organizations and the social role that it plays to serve people with disabilities), began.  Dr. Jassem Khalil Mirza, an Academic and Media Expert and Member of the Board of Directors of UAE Sociologist Association, talked about UAE strategies to empower persons with abilities and the role of civil society organizations in activating this strategy - Dubai as a model.

He indicated that by 2020, Dubai is going to become a friendly city for persons with abilities.  It will offer Health Care, rehabilitation, education, job placement, equal opportunities, and public services to persons with disabilities.  One of the main initiatives is H.H Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council, initiative "My Community... A City for Everyone". It aims at making projects and initiatives that promote the participation and inclusion of people of determination in the community, eliminating all obstacles that may stand in the way of them positively engaging in their environments, as capable individuals of society.

In the same session, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services Social Worker Maryam Mustafa Al – Farsi talked about social services for persons with disabilities as being a humanitarian job that takes care of people and their interests.  It deals with social issues that depend on collaborative work in order to reach solutions.  A group of specialists in social work tries to find solutions in order to improve persons with disabilities lives in a way that corresponds to their needs and capabilities.

Kaltham Al Matroushi, Director of Girls' Branch at Al Thiqa Club and Wadaha Anwar from Dubai Police, presented a showcase story.  In the second session, entitled "Methods and Mechanisms of Social Support for Persons with Disabilities", Dr. Hussein Al-Mashih, Development and Social Welfare Sector Development Specialist in Community Development Authority, talked about effective ways and mechanisms to address the challenges faced by persons with disabilities through social integration and employment.

In the same session, Rabab Abdel Wahab who is in charge of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services Assistive Technology Center talked about assistive technology’s role in empowering persons with disabilities. Manar Abdel kader from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai presented a showcase story.

Disability and Contemporary Challenges in the GCC Countries workshop will continue on Thursday, February 21, 2019.  Therefore, we invite you to come to Radisson blu hotel in Sharjah in order to participate and cover the event.

Her Highness Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Director General of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS), speech for the workshop.

(Since the adoption of International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the adoption of the social model, which considers society to be the main common factor in the disability of human beings by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006. After communities admitted that physical, sensory, intellectual or even psychological differences should not necessarily lead to impede individuals, only if the community fails to take care of its children with disabilities, contain them, and provide their needs on an equal basis with the rest of its members…

Since then, the responsibilities of social workers towards persons with disabilities has been doubled.  The medical model, which considers disability the result of an impairment or malfunction in person’s body or senses, has lost its momentum.  Social workers focused on what they can offer persons with disabilities benefiting from the great care we are witnessing in gulf countries as well as the great development in science, education, and technology).

Therefore, it is necessary here to quote from His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, speech given in March 2017 at the International Government Communication Forum, “Sharjah emirates has given a special care to building humans and achieve sustainable development.  It is a priority for us.  We have been setting plans and visions that focus on individuals throughout their life spam because they are the real fortune and the best investment.  Countries looking to achieve comprehensive, fair, and sustainable development must take care of its citizens and stimulate social partnership in every means possible.

It is our duty to work together in order to adapt sustainable development objectives by playing our role in empowering persons with disabilities, reducing the complications of disability by offering early diagnoses and intervention and multiple services.  People must work together in order to enhance persons with disabilities social, environmental, and financial advancement.  The government must incorporate sustainable development as inseparable part of its institutional strategies.

Among these objectives, which influence the lives of persons with disabilities, should be the focus on health care, empowerment through education, rehabilitation, and employment. Other goals include financial independence, increasing their self-confidence, offering opportunities for integration into society as well as raising awareness of their rights, treat them on equal basis, and grant accessibility to education, work, and home.  The government must consolidate the relationships of cooperation with local, regional, and international institutions to achieve a higher cause, which is creating a sustainable community for persons with disabilities in GCC countries.

Therefore, I believe that the workshop, which is organized by UAE Sociologist Association and Gulf Sociologist Association, is of great importance due to the material presented by experts, academics, field workers with persons with disabilities, their parents, members of social associations, and specialized centres in the GCC countries.  These contributions would explain the reality of persons with disabilities in their countries and the main challenges facing them and stopping them from integrating into society.

I would like to confirm the need to reach a unique and new recommendations and initiatives that are not ordinary, which rarely implemented.  We must move on to implementing these initiatives by actually working.  If we look at the different issues that the workshop is going to address, we would find that we have enough laws and regulations to respond to it.  We really need more knowledge of these laws and regulations, which lack enforcement.  We need more awareness of persons with disabilities issues.  It should not be restricted only to their families.  It should include families of non-disabled persons and all members of society.

There are so many issues that our workshop should focus on such as lack of specialized courses in colleges to cover our need for qualified staff, the lack of funding resources such as donations, gifts, and investments, revenues against inflation and high operating expenses among so many other issues.  We need more work to change the negative stereotypes about disability.  We need more understanding from couples who are planning to marry.

I wish great success to (Disability and Contemporary Challenges in the GCC Countries) workshop in reaching good recommendations.  I would like to thank all volunteers, organizers from UAE Sociologist Association and Gulf Sociologist Association, academics, and participants, and to everyone that provided support to make this workshop a success.

Yours faithfully