Cat Mackenzie talks to Andrea Albalawi, researcher at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, which has teamed up with the British Council to teach former victims of abuse English for free.
Why teach English and not Arabic?
Most of our clients come from all different nationalities and the common denominator language is English. This is the language that allows them to reach everybody.
Is it just for beginners?
All levels. They are given an assessment and the teacher determines which class they can join.
Do you worry that people may abuse the system for free English lessons?
We have been established to protect women and children and in order to do that we have established screening assessments where we determine if they will receive services, irrespective of language or any other services that we might be offering. We serve clients who fit within our mandate: victims of domestic abuse, trafficking and child abuse. The screening is created in line with internationally recognised recommendations.
Why was the centre established?
To alleviate violence against women and children by protecting women and children, preventing the escalation of violence against women and promoting social awareness through education.
Do you allow men to come to the foundation
We don’t allow any men, only boys up to the age of 11. This is because of the safety issues and the nature of a lot of our clients’ backgrounds and experience with abuse.
Do you feel you are making progress?
Definitely. With public awareness campaigns we will be able to reach everybody and through media sources like Time Out we will slowly but surely get the message out there.
What happens to the women and children after they have been through the foundation?
Every client has an individual plan to determine what would be best for them. If they choose to return to their own country then that would be part of their plan. If they choose to be integrated into society here then that would be what would be done for them. For people staying here, their living requirements would be sorted out, but if they are returning home then those arrangements would be made.
Who supports the foundation other than the British Council?
We have many supporters in many other public and private sectors: the Grand Hyatt, which is American; Health, Mind and Body, from Iceland, provide a lot of services for us. The Old Library donates books. We welcome all of our supporters, contributors and helpers to the foundation – there’s no limit to nationality.
What is the foundation’s vision for the near future?
Within five years we plan to have established counselling, self-esteem and empowerment classes provided by Health, Mind and Body for our clients. Physical activities and exercise classes will become part of our clients day-to-day lives. They will also receive job training in computing alongside typing classes. We will use this training to help them develop a CV and handle job interviews. We are providing education for all the children here and will continue to do that. We want to bring in more community partnership. We will be arranging events and fundraisers for the charity.
How can people in Dubai get involved with the charity?
Call our main line and we’re more than happy to receive any sort of efforts. We welcome volunteers as well, any sort of contributions, donations. That number is also the best one to call if you are in trouble and need our help.
One large pack equals one tetanus
The campaign to fight maternal and newborn tetanus The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that every three minutes, a newborn dies of tetanus. But the deaths are preventable, if mothers and their newborns are vaccinated against the disease. Now parents here in Dubai have got the chance to help. In August and September every large pack of Pampers nappies you buy will pay for a life-saving vaccine to protect a woman and her child in Sudan, Nigeria and Pakistan – countries chosen by UNICEF because of their need for vaccination.
Contact the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children on 04 6060 300.