Young Emiratis will be trained to serve as ambassadors of the justice system as part of efforts to teach young people the ins and outs of the law.
The scheme was launched by Abu Dhabi Judicial Department on Wednesday after officials at the department noticed that young people are best influenced by their own peers.
“We will pick boys and girls who have charisma, enjoy leading others and want to attract attention, and turn these skills to serve the law and build bridges,” said Ameena Al Mazrouei, head of social services at ADJD.
“We will teach the ambassadors the laws and let them deliver it to their peers in their own way.
“Teens always lean towards breaking the rules to attract attention, and the ‘bad boys’ are usually the ones who attract their peers to follow their footsteps,” said Ms Al Mazrouei.
“We want to use that energy and influence to serve our goal, which is to their benefit in the end.”
She said the ambassador scheme would help clarify laws to children in an approachable and memorable way, giving the example of the anti-discrimination law.
“We will teach it in the form of a play or a game, and teach them humility instead; to treat a labourer like a friend.”
Another topic Ms Al Mazrouei said was key to explain to children is the issue of sexual harassment.
“Instead of telling them this and that, we can give them a toy and highlight the ‘no touch points’,” she said.
The initiative will officially kick off at a carnival organised by ADJD at a public park next month. The event will host a variety of activities, shows and workshops — all with a legal theme.
Children aged between 11 and 16 are eligible to register to become an ambassador. From the 1,500 applicants expected to register at the carnival, 30 will be selected after an interviewing process and a test of their leadership skills, said Ms Al Mazrouei.
The selected ambassadors will undergo leadership and vocational skills training with a company that will teach them how to become social media influencers. They will learn how best to deliver a message to their target audience and encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
“After the first year, which is basically the trial phase, we will involve younger children starting from age four, and expand the programme across Bani Yas, Al Ain and the Western Region,” Ms Al Mazrouei said.
ADJD will frequently follow up with the ambassadors who must also submit reports of any activities they organise for their peers.
At the end of every year, the department will review each of the ambassadors’ development and reward the top representative.
ADJD’s ultimate goal is to establish a culture of social responsibility among young people by 2030.
“We want a law-abiding culture to become the norm. And we don’t have much time, so we need to do this extensively,” she said.
Former initiatives targeted at increasing social responsibility in children carried out by the ADJD included declaring 2015 “Child’s Legal Knowledge Year”.
At the time prosecutors pointed out that juvenile offences make up about 40 per cent of all the cases they examined.
Other efforts included visits by the head of family prosecution to schools, inviting schoolchildren to the department to speak to judges and prosecutors, publishing a know the law book for children, and creating a court cartoon character.
“This time we will stay away from lectures and school visits, we will hold a carnival, organise plays and games,” Ms Al Mazrouei said.
This year the department also plans to send its employees to volunteer to help people with special needs sell their products at an organic farm in Bani Yas. More than 100 employees have already volunteered for the initiative.
Source: The National