A forum organized by Qatar Foundation member DIFI emphasized the importance of raising awareness among couples of what marriage involves and requires.
Poor understanding between husbands and wives, lack of responsibility, parental involvement, and a lack of awareness about what being married really means are among the key factors behind the breakdown of marriages and divorce in the Arab world and beyond, experts have told a conference at Qatar Foundation.
During a panel discussion at the Arab Family Forum on Marriage: Approaches to Research and Policy – organized by Qatar Foundation member the Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) – speakers focused on the positive impact that marital education programs can have, and the importance of married couples making use of them.
The session on the second day of the forum at Qatar National Convention Centre brought together Rashed Al Dosari, Executive Director, The Family Consulting Center (Wifaq), Qatar; Max Palmer, Director and National Trainer at New Zealand’s Prepare/Enrich initiative; Shaikha Faisal Medndi, Head of the Mawada Program, Kuwait; and Abdul Shukur Abdullah, Director General of the National Population and Family Development Board, Malaysia. It was led by Dr. Anis Ben Brik, Director, Family Policy Department, DIFI.
Speaking about programs that seek to educate couples who may be intending to marry, Al-Dosari said: "We aim to encourage young people to join marital education programs in order to better understand the marital relationship, strengthen the bonds between family members, and gain the knowledge of the behaviors that individuals who are going to marry need to show, helping to build a strong and sustainable emotional relationship between the couple. "
Al-Mandani highlighted her perspectives on marriage and marital education programs in Kuwait, saying: "We noticed that most divorces were among newly-married couples, because of their lack of awareness about married life.
“This emphasizes the importance of marital education, because it provides couples with the knowledge that will help them enter marriage in the right manner, with awareness of what it entails. "
Through marital education programs, we aim to provide newlyweds and those who plan to marry with the relevant information and knowledge to meet challenges in their marital life.
Abdullah shared the Malaysian experience on marriage with forum attendees, as he said: “The average length of a marriage in Malaysia is about 6.9 years, with half of divorces occurring in the first five years of marriage, often in couples aged 30-34 – and one of the main reasons for this is poor understanding between spouses, lack of responsibility, and parental involvement.
"Through marital education programs, we aim to provide newlyweds and those who plan to marry with the relevant information and knowledge to meet challenges in their marital life, and equip them with the advice they need."
During the forum, DIFI also organized five sessions focusing on the state of marriage in the GCC; the wider Middle East; North Africa; the Nile Basin; and Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, and Comoros.
In a panel discussion addressing marriage within the GCC, Dr. Fatima Al-Kubaisi, Head of the Department of Social Sciences at Qatar University, gave a presentation on the social factors surrounding marriage in the “pre-oil” era, including parity ratios, marital upbringing, and the material costs of marriage; and in “post-oil” times, such as the role of education in marriage, parental involvement in marital life, and social networking programs.
Meanwhile, a session on the state of marriage across the Middle East as a whole was led by delegate Asmaa Al-Hamadi, who spoke about underage marriage in the context of her personal experience in a refugee camp in Lebanon, where she saw out-of-school girls already being married, pregnant, and having multiple children in their mid-teens.
“When I asked the girls why they were getting married, their answer was ‘there is nothing else to do, there is no education’,” said Al-Hamadi. “This demonstrates that feelings of emptiness and a lack of education are among the reasons why girls are married at a young age.”
Dr. Elie Mekhael, a professor in the Faculty of Education at Lebanese University, said: "The marriage of minors is a problem today in the Arab World, and marriage of this kind existed before the challenges and conflicts that the region has faced.”
The forum featured the discussion of topics and findings highlighted in two DIFI research reports, titled The State of Marriage in the Arab World and Marital Education Programs in the Arab world. The reports are intended to provide new knowledge that helps to address the problems faced by Arab families related to marriage and marriage patterns, age and marriage, marital relations, work and marriage, migration and marriage, and marriage during conflicts and wars.