The women’s majlis: Marriage is no longer the only priority

How are Emirati women’s attitudes changing towards marriage in the UAE today?

Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be debated on by a series of female Emirati columnists. This month, we ask Ayesha Almazroui:

How are Emirati women’s attitudes changing towards marriage in the UAE today?

I was at my friend’s wedding when I was approached by a woman I don’t know. She said: “What is your name? I have a husband for you.”

For a moment, I was silent. I didn’t know what to say. Then I said, “Thank you. But I don’t think about getting married now. It’s too early for me. I need to finish my studies and establish the foundations of my career.”

This incident happened when I was an undergraduate student. I’ve never felt that marriage should start this way. A mother goes to weddings or social gatherings in a quest for a wife for her son. Even if it was only the first step, it didn’t seem right to me.

In some other cases I’ve been approached by my mother, who would ask me if I would agree to marry this man who is related to us or that man whose mother called asking for my hand for her son.

“There is a good man we know. He is looking for a wife. His family is well-known and he has a decent job. I’ve been approached by his mother who asked about you,” my mother would say.

All of these men had a very little idea about who I am or what I do for living. Of course, I haven’t agreed to marry any of them for that particular reason along with other personal reasons.

I guess that I’m not the only one who has been through this. Marriage is one of the many cultural practices that have been affected by the rapid modernisation of the UAE. Education and awareness, for both men and women, have played a big part in this change.

Most women are now more focused on getting their education and establishing their careers. Delay in marriage is no longer a concern for many women. There are still those who would agree on the first man who knocks on their door just to get married and enter the “golden cage”, or for some other reason. But the majority of my friends are taking their time to decide on this life-changing matter.

The average age of marriage has risen from 23.7 in 1995 to 25.9 last year, according to recently released figures by the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (Scad). Marriage is no longer the main and only priority.

Young women have also different criteria when it comes to choosing their future husbands than the previous generations. In the past, a man with good reputation and a proper job would be enough for many to say “yes” to a proposal. Now the more educated the woman is, the more educated and open-minded a partner she would look for.

Emirati women have been gaining their independence step by step. Now many are working, driving and filling roles that were unheard of only a few decades ago. All this has empowered them to make their own decisions, especially when it comes to marriage.

Ayesha Almazroui is a leader writer with The National.

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