As Egypt is ranked among the countries with the highest rates of divorce, the Egyptian government has introduced a family protection initiative entitled ‘Mawadda’ in order to raise awareness on tolerance among partners, and how partners can prepare for the marriage life.
The initiative draws questions on the possibility of its success, especially as the rates of divorce are reaching unprecedented records. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi have been long criticising the high rates of divorce in Egypt, and addressed the concerned entities to enact plans in order to counter this issue.
During the sixth round of the National Youth Conference, the president addressed the minister of social solidarity, Ghada Wali, to prepare a national project with the purpose of reducing the steady rise in divorce cases within the society.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly reviewed a report prepared by Wali on the initiative which aims to reduce the high rates of divorce. The initiative is expected to start as a trial in the governorates of Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said until July, where the highest rates of divorce are recorded, according to the report.
The trial phase will determine the future of the initiative, highlighting its challenges and strengths and other points to be considered in any other upcoming phases. After the success of the initiative, it will expand to additional governorates across the nation by next October, the report further noted.
In press statements, Wali said that the new initiative contributes toward reducing the divorce rates through discussing topics related to choosing one’s own life partner, the spouses’ rights and duties, in addition to the different marital issues and how to deal with them especially economic pressures, family management, and women’s health.
Furthermore, the initiative will support young people in entering the marital life, while equipping them with all the necessary expertise to form the family, and will also provide guidance in order to resolve any disputes, the minster noted. Wali added that it will also activate family dispute resolution bodies to reduce divorce cases, and will also review the legislation which supports the family entity and preserves the rights of both partners and children.
Noteworthy, Mawadda targets around 800,000 youth from the age of 18 to 35, who are university and higher institutes students. Conscripts of the ministries of defence and interior, and those who work in the public service can attend the initiative’s courses as well. The initiaThe activities will also include reviewing all the legal legislation related to marriage with the participation of Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Ifta, and the ministry of justice, without violating Islamic law.tive targets married couples who have cases that are registered at the settlement disputes offices, affiliated to the ministry of justice.
The trainers will include 700 universities and academies, and 500 trainers from the recruitment camps of the armed forces and the interior ministry, in addition to 5,000 maazouns (marriage officiant).
Mawadda will work as an obligatory training programme for couples who are to be married, requiring them to complete an average of 30 hours of attendance, with a final exam.
The activities will also include reviewing all the legal legislation related to marriage with the participation of Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Ifta, and the ministry of justice, without violating Islamic law.
Through the initiative, the state will be able to prepare a database of beneficiaries for this project linked through the number of national identities in order to determine the number of marriages and divorces, measure the rates annually, count the number of family cases disputes, and measure the interaction with the initiative itself.
The initiative will also work on social platforms through having accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, in addition to airing a radio programme dubbed ‘We will complete our lives’, which will be broadcasted on all local radio stations, as well as prepare short awareness brochures, in addition to telecasting a programme every week starting from October on Al-Nas channel.
Wael Wafaa, a social consultant, stated that the initiative is important and must be adequately supported to ensure its success and sustainability on the long-term as the rise in the divorce rate comes due to several reasons, ranging from social, psychological, and economic ones, but the absence of the family role had a significant impact on the high divorce rates.
Speaking on the reasons behind divorce, he explained, “In the past, the father or the mother of each partner used to have a role in raising awareness on managing the family entity, through providing advice and guidance on how they can have a good and safe marriage life”. He denounced the personality of the majority of married couples, stating that marital relationship at the present is no longer based on integration, as each of them is only expecting more from the other, and they become very harsh if any situation needs their compromise.”
“In many cases, partners even reject to communicate with each other, increasing the severity of the problems between them, and this state of conflict is common among the majority of Egyptian families,” he said.
The consultant also believes that some couples who are to be married are not eligible to form a family, while depicting marriage as “a company with integrated and strong pillars,” urging that there must be a common dialogue between the spouses and thought between them in order to overcome any problems.
Meanwhile, Amira Hassanin, a behavioural psychologist, said that the initiatives which were launched in the field of reforming marital relations with the purpose of reducing divorce rates proved their failure, and they were just created for a media show, saying that there must be a national project in order to reduce the divorce rates which have significantly risen.
Hassanin said that the success of the initiative and its continuation will require it to become a national project to be managed by specialists in psychology, sociology, and clerics, as well as to introduce real stories.
Moreover, she also said there is a deficiency in education from both the family and school, as well as factors affecting economic conditions because of the high prices, pointing to the negative role of some media outlets and a large number of TV programmes. The reasons are also due to the rise of cultural differences and conflict between spouses. She also stated that some of the advice givers are not eligible for such advice, and sometimes portray divorce as a “progressive step” which women should take, portraying her as a heroine who should be freed from the husband’s control.
“There is a huge inadequacy in the education which is provided by the family and the school, as well as other factors affecting marriage such as economic conditions, and the negative role of some media outlet that spike disagreement between spouses, and some of the providers of advice to couples are not even eligible for such advice,” she commented on the reasons of divorce.
Meanwhile, the Islamic preacher, Khaled El-Gendi, commented in press statement that the success of the Mawadda initiative requires the expertise of Al-Azhar scholars, the leading experts, legal advisers, professors of psychology and sociology, and all those who are experienced in solving marital problems, as well as the elderly mothers and men to sum up their previous experiences.
He also said that that the economic conditions are not the reason for the high rate of divorce, these arguments are flimsy, as couples do not have to overstress themselves and can live with their current incomes, and help each other in bearing the costs of marriage.
Divorce rates in Egypt have been on the rise during the past years. In 2017, the Egyptian census, according to the deputy minister of health and population, confirmed that the total number of divorced people reached 710,850. Divorce cases occur mostly in the age group between 25 and 30 years old.
The causes of divorce are varied, including financial troubles, social incompatibility between spouses, lack of responsibility, drug addiction, and the interference of family and friends in married couples’ lives, all of which can lead to child exposure to violence, neglect, and school dropouts.
A total number of 240 cases of divorce occur daily in Egypt, making the country one of the highest in the world in terms of divorce rates, which rose to 40% over the past half century, at a rate of approximately one divorce every six minutes. The country, according to cabinet reports, has 2.5 million divorcees.
Divorces have become a disturbing phenomenon because they threaten social cohesion, especially in the presence of children, and the issue requires a community response to solve its causes.