Vol XXX   NO. 2      Thursday      22 March 2007
New centre to help abused women
Shaikha Sabeeka opening the centre

A NEW rehabilitation centre, which aims to aid battered women and protect families from social, psychological and legal problems, was opened in Hamad Town yesterday. Her Highness Shaikha Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and Supreme Council for Women chairwoman, opened the Aisha Yateem Family Counselling Centre, the first of its kind in the region. A large gathering of VIPs, the majority of who were women, attended the event, including Health Minister Dr Nada Haffadh and Social Development Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi.

The BD330,000 facility is established by the Bahrain Young Ladies Association (BYLA) in conjunction with the Social Development Ministry.

Shaikha Sabeeka praised the efforts to set up the centre, which she said aimed at further promoting family stability. She said that the country would never forget the role of late Aisha Yateem as one of the pioneering women in social work.

"The centre has a very noble objective, which is to protect and guide Bahraini families to enable them to deal with their problems," said Shaikha Sabeeka.

The centre will provide emergency accommodation for abused women and offer legal advice and counselling by social psychologists, said BYLA chairwoman Ebtisam Ali Khamis at the opening. It includes three flats that will provide shelter for up to six women at a time - or three families if they include children.

"This centre was established to contribute to deflecting the problems facing Bahraini families that threaten their security and stability," she said.

"This includes enhancing family members' legal awareness concerning their personal and family rights and duties and increasing community members' awareness of the importance of family planning.

"We also hope to develop scientific knowledge in areas of social and psychological problems, how to deal with them and their prevention."

The centre will be organising training programmes for women, families and university students. It will also conduct research and studies related to family and psychological counselling.

"The centre's services include social guidance, psychological guidance, legal counselling and hosting battered women for a limited time period," said Mrs Khamis.

The centre is named after Aisha Yateem, the late women's rights activist and human rights campaigner, who died of a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 82.

She founded the BYLA in 1951, which was the first women's club in the Gulf.

She was a highly educated woman who did her primary and secondary education in India and studied medicine at Cambridge, UK.

Her love of music, particularly the piano, took her to the Trinity College of Music, London, where she graduated with a Bachelors of Art in Music. At that time she was one of a handful of Arab women who went to study abroad, but passed on her knowledge by offering women free education and teaching them how to read and write.

She also supported women and children by establishing the first kindergartens in Bahrain.

Hussein Ali Yateem's family paid for the construction of the centre.

"As we celebrate the opening of the centre, we encounter a valuable lesson through which (Aisha Yateem) confirms to us that the value of a human is defined by giving to one's nation," said Mrs Khamis.

"She drives us to unwaveringly work for our country, exemplifying giving a helping hand to those overcome by life and surrounded by violence and oppression.

Although the centre was only officially opened yesterday, BYLA said it has been helping battered women and assisting families in need for several years.

Since 1992, BYLA has been collaborating with Al Malkiya Club and the Central Informatics Organisation to find out the most urgent problems faced by Bahraini families. Research showed that family counselling services and related needs were needed the most here.

This led to BYLA launching the Al Malkiya Project in 1994, which formed the first steps towards providing professional service to women and families in Hamad Town.

That same year, the Bahrain government granted the association a land in Hamad Town to establish a family counselling centre. In 1995, the foundation stone of the centre was laid under the patronage of Abdul Nabi Abdulla Al Shoala, then the Labour and Social Affairs Minister.

On March 21, 1998, the association started receiving family cases and provided them with necessary support and assistance to overcome their problems.

This was conducted by setting up the Family Guidance and Counselling Office at the BYLA's premises in Manama.

However, the influx of cases prompted the board of directors to consider developing the project to provide a more professional service.

In 2002, the association's board of directors proposed the setting up of a family centre to give counselling in co-operation with the authorities concerned.

Discussions between the two sides continued until 2004 when the board of directors presented the project in its final form to the Yateem family, to receive the necessary support and to proceed with its implementation.

The total cost of the first phase, which included construction, furnishing and equipping the centre, was BD330,000 - the greater part of which was contributed by the family of the prominent Husain Ali Yateem, then the BYLA.

Family member Shaikha Yateem also donated electronic equipment required by the centre. The centre's address is Building 1892, Road 1128, Hamad Town 1211 (Roundabout 17). For more information, contact 17430488, fax 17430557 and e-mail aycc@batelco. com.bh.

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