Ajman municipality offers marriage course to singletons

With the national divorce rate at 40 per cent, unmarried government employees are being offered workshops that foster awareness about the challenges of married life.

AJMAN // Authorities have taken a new step in fighting divorce by trying to create awareness in the young about the challenges of marriage - before they marry.

The Umm al Momineen Association is hosting workshops and lectures for students and unmarried government employees on how to handle the difficulties of wedlock and avoid separation, said Dr Abdullah al Ansari, the director of the group's Mawada department, which handles marriage affairs.

"We have studied the divorce problem and found that awareness campaigns for prospective couples would help," he said. "Most youths get into a marriage with a wrong choice and high expectations that ruin their relationships."

The Mawada department also does matchmaking for Emirati singles in a Sharia-approved manner, he said.

The campaign started last month in secondary schools and is moving into government departments. On Wednesday, about 40 unmarried Ajman Municipality staffers began attending Umm al Momineem's three-day marriage workshop.

"We have almost been to every secondary school in Ajman and gave several lectures on new marriages," said Aisha al Shehhi, an Umm al Momineen board member. "Now we are including government departments, starting with the municipality, and soon we shall be at universities and colleges as well." Secondary schools were targeted first because many Emirati girls are likely to get married after that level, she said.

Divorce in Ajman is mostly caused by poor marriage choices, Dr al Ansari said. Because of that, the group is concentrating on giving a good presentation on picking a mate.

"In Islam, choice is made on four conditions, family, money, beauty and religion," he said. "We are emphasizing all the four in our presentations but advising that religion should be given a greater consideration."

The organisation is also advising girls to be content with simple weddings and a simple way of life, holding that glamorous media images have created an ideal of riches and comfort that is not sustainable.

"It doesn't pay to have a marriage of millions of dirhams from a bank loan and then you start struggling in the house as there is nothing left apart from financing the loan," Dr al Ansari said.

Appearances often overrode other more practical considerations, workshop presenters said. Many men and women entered their marriages without first thinking and doing some research on their partners and got hung up with their looks, ignoring important psychological needs such as sensitivity and stability, said Anisa Darwish, a psychologist who participates in the seminars.

"We have always warned men not to marry girls just because they are beautiful, which they often do," she said "Now we want to warn girls not to marry men just because of sweet words, which they are also doing. It's wrong to marry just to try to see if it works out or it fails and you go for a divorce."

Khawla Ahmed, a municipality employee who took part in the workshop, said: "We need some good training on handling a marriage and to remain competitive in our country. I don't like the idea of complaining all the time that expatriate girls are winning the hearts of our men. We are as good as them and with good preparations we can always beat them."

Others said the seminars had taught them to be patient with their eventual partners.

"No one is perfect," said Faisal Mohammed, another municipality employee. "I have learnt to focus on the good points of my future partner rather than her weaknesses."