Since it was founded in July 2007, Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) has slowly but surely brought some of Dubai’s more taboo truths – domestic violence, sex trafficking – to the surface. As the city’s first licensed organisation providing shelter and support to such victims, it has forced a discussion of these issues in our society with its campaigns, and opened a very valuable door to those who need help. This week, DFWAC is holding a fundraising fatoor (or iftar) to help keep its support programmes active. DFWAC’s Ohood Al Suwaidi tells Time Out how the money raised will be spent.
What sort of cases do you see most at DFWAC?
Our 2009 annual report shows that more than a third of sheltered clients were victims of human trafficking. More than a quarter were victims of child abuse and almost exactly a quarter had suffered some sort of domestic violence.
What will DFWAC do with the money raised at this week’s charity fatoor?
We are fortunate enough to have Unilever sponsor the vocational training we offer to clients, but we also organise activities for these women, taking them out to tourist sites around Dubai. So the money will go to these activities, as well as clothes and food. It costs us a fortune to buy food for the shelter each month.
What other types of support does the foundation offer?
We provide victims with psychological consultations and treatment, legal advice and medical care. If they are residents of the UAE, we work with immigration and waive all visa fees if they overstay. We offer this to all nationalities, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.
How many people do you usually shelter each month?
The shelter can house up to 200 people, but the average number of residents per month is 30 to 40.
You have non-resident clients too, right?
We have more than 200 people who are treated as external clients. Our clinical psychologist conducts programmes with non-residents to bring stability back to the family. [In these cases] we do not only listen to the women who have been abused. All those who are involved in the issue are included.
How has the community reacted to DFWAC’s awareness campaigns, such as ‘Protect Childhood’ earlier this year?
Even though we’re touching on very, very sensitive issues, [the feedback] has gone beyond our expectations. In the beginning, we started airing adverts on Arabic radio and, initially, there was a sort of denial. However, the response from people who were being exposed to domestic violence was really good. We were then invited by universities and schools to conduct seminars. There were discussions in the local newspapers, so we raised the issue. Now we’ve started a dedicated programme on Arabic radio channel Noor Dubai to encourage more discussion. It’s called Usraty Hayati, which means ‘My Family, My Life’, and it’s broadcast on Mondays and Wednesdays between 5pm and 6pm.
Why would you encourage Time Out readers to come to the charity fatoor?
We will need to work very closely with the community to alleviate violence against women and children, so it’s an opportunity to find out how people in Dubai can contribute and give their support. We want to focus on ‘togetherness’ – how we and the community can complement each other.
How can people help, aside from donations?
We have a volunteer programme starting in September. People can volunteer their time, organising events and fundraisers, and we’re also looking for people who are professionally skilled in educational, vocational and recreational training.
DFWAC’s charity fatoor is on August 17 at The Address Dubai Mall from 7pm, Dhs300. The event includes a fashion show by local designers and an auction of Emirati art. Buy tickets at www.timeouttickets.com or call 800 4669. For more about the volunteer programme, visit www.dfwac.ae. Need DFWAC’s help? Call free on 800 111 or SMS 5111.