Ministry helps thousands of divorced women in Abu Dhabi ‘find their way’

The Ministry of Social Affairs helps more than 3,000 divorced women registered in the emirate with more than just financial assistance.

Osha Juma with her children, Meera and Mansoor. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Figures from the Ministry of Social Affairs have revealed the extent of divorce in the emirate.

A recent study shows more than 3,100 divorced women have registered for assistance from the ministry, with more than half of them in Al Ain.

They receive a monthly allowance but the assistance does not end there. The ministry also provides advice and training to “help them find their way”.

It spends more than Dh2 billion a year on 16 categories of citizens in need, including a monthly allowance of between Dh4,400 and Dh5,280 for divorced women.

The women also receive training to help them find jobs or to return to education, to help them establish themselves after the upheaval of divorce.

Osha Juma, 44, a mother of two who was divorced nine years ago after three years of marriage, had no idea of the assistance she would receive from the ministry, apart from the needed monthly allowance.

Her ex-husband provided for their children financially, but Ms Juma received nothing.

“The ministry has helped me find my way after I was lost and had nowhere and no one to go to for assistance,” she said.

“I came to them for financial help. I had nothing offered by the court. Initially I didn’t have a clue about what the ministry offers.

“When a woman is divorced, she gets weak and we need guidance to help us build ourselves again. We don’t have the knowledge of what we will lose and benefit from at the end of the day.”

Ms Juma was one of more than 3,147 divorcees registered with the ministry, a recent study shows.

The study revealed there were 1,581 divorcees who had applied for benefits in Al Ain, 678 in Baniyas and 569 in Abu Dhabi city.

In Al Shahama there were 247 registered with the ministry, 56 in Madinat Zayed and 16 on Delma Island.

“These are only the numbers registered at the ministry and include only those in the emirate of Abu Dhabi to receive social welfare,” said Jameela Hareb, director of the ministry’s cooperation department.

In 2007, the ministry shifted its focus from merely providing welfare to also helping recipients develop through programmes including job training.

“I didn’t only come for financial support, I wanted a job too,” Ms Juma said.

Before her marriage she worked as a model and cabin crew member for a UAE airline. She did not work while married and was unemployed for seven years.

The ministry offered her training in customer service and body language, then gave her a job as a receptionist.

“You lose confidence when you get divorced – they gave me confidence,” Ms Juma said. “They offered me a chance to start from the beginning again.

“They took me in and I started learning again. I want to help women who are in my situation.”

Ms Hareb said: “We collaborate with universities and institutions to send these women for training, and after training we offer them a job through Abu Dhabi Tawteen Council, all which have been successful attempts.

“We try to develop and train these women instead of just paying them. We also provide them with discounts for services such as taxi rides as well as a voucher of Dh500 for electricity and water bills.”

The ministry also looks after those struggling with the trauma of moving from married life back to that of a single woman and mother.

The Family Development Centre in Abu Dhabi works closely with the ministry and focuses on the psychological well-being of divorced women.

The centre will host workshops across the emirate on caring for children of divorce as part of their parenting programme Bidaya-Nihaya, or Beginning to End.