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Story | Research
24 February 2021

DIFI conference shines spotlight on ways to support marriage


QF member attracts nearly 1,000 attendees worldwide to discuss matrimony in modern era

Considering the immense pressure youth around the world are facing – and the challenges they encounter upon entering matrimony – it has become imperative to develop policies suitable for helping them construct healthy marriages, attendees heard during day one of Doha International Family Institute’s international conference.

Titled Marriage: Formation and Constituents of Stability, the conference, organized by Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) – a member of Qatar Foundation – brought together nearly 1,000 people from around the globe to learn about critical issues affecting marriage.

The opening plenary titled Perceptions First: The Difference between Man and Woman set the tone for the discussion around the different perceptions of policymakers, experts, and youth on the topic, and highlighted the advocacy measures needed through policies and programs to address such issues.

The DIFI conference is focusing on critical issues affecting marriage.

The session featured special guest speakers Queen of Malaysia, Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah binti Almarhum Al-Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskanda Al-Haj, Raja Permaisuri Agong, and Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

They were later joined by His Excellency Salah bin Ghanem Al Ali, Minister of Culture and Sports of the State of Qatar; Dr. Sharifa Noaman Al-Emadi, Executive Director, DIFI; and Reem Al Bannaw, alumnus, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), in a panel discussion, moderated by Shaikha Al Marri, Member of the Youth Advisory Committee at the Ministry of Culture and Sports in Qatar.

I learned that each spouse must maintain their privacy and personal space to ensure that neither oversteps the other. This makes them truly partners in the relationship

Reem Al Bannaw

Growing up with separated parents, Al Bannaw said she developed a fear that marriage will lead to divorce. “I started seeing a relationship mentor who helped my perception of marriage and family,” she said. “I learned that each spouse must maintain their privacy and personal space to ensure that neither oversteps the other. This makes them truly partners in the relationship.”

Another plenary session on Marriage and Socioeconomic Challenges focused on wedlock and the socioeconomic challenges that accompany it, and explored the costs that occur prior to marriage formation and its impact on marriage rates. The speakers included Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, Member of Britain’s Upper Chamber of Parliament, The House of Lords, United Kingdom; Ms. Dina Douay, Director of Women, Family and Childhood Directorate, League of Arab States; and Dr. Bouchra Tawfiq, Director, National Institute of Social Action, Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and Family, Morocco. Dr. Amal Mohammed Al Malki, Founding Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, HBKU, Qatar moderated the session.

What we see most often is not a reluctance to marry, but rather a delay in marriage

Dr. Luay Shabaneh

Dr. Tawfiq said: “Delay in marriage will ultimately lead to a society with less young people and more elderly people. We have to work together to connect with our Arab and Islamic culture to keep pace with the occurring changes and support marriage policies and programs, so we can bridge this gap and keep societies young and vibrant.”

In a session on Age and Marriage: Between Early and Late Marriages, Dr. Luay Shabaneh, Regional Director, UNFPA ASRO, commenced the session with statistics relating to the age of marriage across the Arab region.

In the same session, Professor Humoud Fahad Alqashan, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Kuwait University, and family and marital therapist, said: “What we see most often is not a reluctance to marry, but rather a delay in marriage. Young men and women try to first reach their ambitions and rather take time to find the right partner.”

Almost 1,000 people from around the world are attending the conference.

Alqashan also underscored the importance of support systems, particularly at the early stages of marriage. “There is a tendency to quickly take family problems to court and family members often act inattentively,” he said.

Another feature of the event was a keynote address on Building the Case for Marriage by renowned American-born marriage and family therapist, Kevin Skinner, who discussed the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of marriage. Stressing the importance of marriage in social development, Skinner said: “Marriage is an institution that will strengthen our entire economies. It strengthens not only couples but the next generation."

Marriage is an institution that will strengthen our entire economies. It strengthens not only couples but the next generation

Kevin Skinner

He added that marriage is the greatest social educator of children, saying: “There is no other place where children can learn the values as deeply as they can by observing what happens in their home.”

With social experts, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and hundreds of attendees worldwide, the event served as an ideal stage for DIFI to present its book on The State of Marriage in the Arab World.

The book editor, Ahmed Aref, Planning and Institutional Development Manager, DIFI, explained that “this book presents a full portrait of the state of marriage across the 22 Arab countries from multidisciplinary perspective. DIFI aims by this initiative to increase the knowledge base on Arab families and stimulate discussion and action in response to the challenges facing the institution of marriage today in the Arab world.”

The conference is designed to advocate for policies, interventions, protection programs, and best practices that support marital relations.

Through this global conference, DIFI aims to advocate for the development and implementation of policies, interventions, protection programs, and best practices that preserve the wellbeing and stability of marital relations worldwide.

Day two of the conference includes four plenary sessions on the Foundations of a Happy Marriage; Experiences and Challenges of Cross-Border Marriages; Is Technology the Doom of Modern Marriage?; and Overcoming the Challenges of Disability and Marriage. It also features an Ask the Expert session, where Mostafa Aboussaad, Educational and Social Expert, Kuwait, illuminates issues surrounding the challenges in a happy marriage by responding to questions on the subject from conference participants.

The second day of the conference also sees the presentation of DIFI’s research report on Perceptions and experiences of long-lasting marriage among youth in Qatar.

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