Sharjah Children Parliament and Sharjah Youth Parliament have been supporting a culture of consultative community participation among children and youth.
The history of any successful society will map a dynamic and principled process of promoting the values, relations and institutions that enable all people to participate in social, economic, cultural and political life on the basis of equality of rights, equity and dignity. It is this active participation of the people in governance, which is the basis of the principle of Shura, or consultation.
This process is most visible in the incredible growth of Sharjah that has gained an enviable reputation globally for not only its cultural and humanitarian contributions, but also instilling a consultative process of governance and inspiring its people to adopt the consultative Shura principle in conducting all their affairs.
Envisioning the future
Since the establishment of the Sharjah Children Parliament (organised by the Sharjah Children) in 1997, the emirate has been supporting a culture of social and community participation from an early age – a leading step forward in the UAE as well as the broader Gulf region. Children between the ages of six and 12 participate in free elections complete with campaigning, to select their own leaders and address issues which are of particular interest to them.
Many members underscore that offering young generations the opportunity to experience parliamentary life at an early age contributes to increasing their expertise and confidence and paves the way for them to become active members.
Muhammad Abdullah Al Naqbi, member of Sharjah Children Parliament, said: “From the moment I joined the Parliament, my perception of many things changed, whether in terms of discussing decisions or debating different topics. At the same time, I got the opportunity to observe the expertise of many leading officials in the UAE in dealing with issues. By engaging in the parliament and interacting with other members, I have gained valuable experience and developed my skillsets. I believe that participation in the Children’s Parliament will enable us to become parliamentary members in the future.”
Inspiring the youth
Five years later, in 2005, the Sharjah Youth Parliament (organised by the Sharjah Youth and Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah) was established to complement the role of the Sharjah Children Parliament. Children aged 12 and above can join the Sharjah Youth Parliament which has a similar purpose and structure.
The Sharjah Youth Parliament embodies the role of young people as tomorrow’s leaders and the hope of the future, in serving their society and engaging with their country’s issues.
The long-term vision of both these programmes, that operate under the umbrella of the Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators, is to ensure that younger generation will be well-versed in expressing their views and assuming public duty in the future.
Speaking about her experience, Mayasa Al Ali, a Youth Parliament member and a member of Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah (SYL), said: “As members of the Sharjah Youth Parliament, we learn at an early age the concept of serving our country, family and community as our noble goal. The parliament empowers us to voice our opinions and present our ideas to government officials and discuss issues of common interest. For us, the parliament is an exceptional platform to explore ourselves and our future.”
Participating in the Youth Parliament activities also results in personal gains, according to Rashed Al Tunaiji, a member of Sharjah Youth. He opined: “Participation in decision-making or submitting proposals is a responsibility that we must shoulder honestly and sincerely. Since I joined the Parliament, my life perspective has changed. I have begun focusing on research and knowledge and now spend more time reading and learning. The Parliament offers many programmes and initiatives to enhance our expertise and plays a key role in building the capacity of the young generations and prepare them to actively and positively contribute to the development of our country.”
Educating and empowering
Since their establishment, the Sharjah Children Parliament and Sharjah Youth Parliament have empowered children and youth, with the aim of enhancing the role of young people as leaders of the future, and enabling them to serve their society and engage with their country’s issues.
The youth are educated on the basics of parliamentary work and principles and values of Shura, through courses and workshops held with public officials, in addition to year-round interactive events and youth sessions. The members are also taken on exploration trips across the city to inspect its services and infrastructure, thus enabling them to participate effectively in the comprehensive journey of development witnessed by the emirate.
The Parliaments also offer their members opportunities to participate in regional and international events. In July 2019, the members took part in a panel discussion themed “Youth and Volunteering” in Bahrain, and discussed several aspects of volunteering and its positive impact on the community.
The Sharjah Children Parliament hosted a series of virtual meetings during its 16th cycle under the theme ‘Leadership through Community Service’ to the discuss the UAE’s series of preventive measures against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The sessions hosted Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Media Council (SMC), Major General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Commander in Chief of Sharjah Police, and Brigadier Dr. Ali Sanjal, Health Advisor at Dubai Police. The members also took part in an array of local and regional events.
The Parliaments form a commitment on the part of the emirate to train children and youth on the basics of parliamentary work in accordance with Shura principles, thus enabling them to participate effectively in the comprehensive journey of development witnessed by the UAE.
Aysha Ali Al Kaabi, Acting Director of Sharjah Children, said: “The Sharjah Youth and Children Parliaments reflect the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of his Wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators, to build a generation that is aware of its rights and enabling them to express their views on issues that concern them.”
Sheikha Aisha Al Qasimi, Director of Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, said: “Our country boasts of its young human capital. The Parliaments have a vision to provide our young generations with knowledge and expertise to create a positive impact on their communities. All subsidiaries of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators seek to raise children’s awareness of their rights, meet their needs and prepare them for participating in public life by building their self-confidence and instilling in them a sense of responsibility.”
Fatima Musharbek, Acting Director of Sharjah Youth, said: “In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of his Wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators, to raise a generation armed with knowledge and skills, the parliaments are committed to educating our youth and involving them in the development process.”