Open dialogue can help create healthier marriages, stronger families, and more stable communities, according to relationship specialists who spoke on the final day of Doha International Family Institute’s conference on marriage.
Featuring thought leaders, policymakers, social science specialists, researchers, and representatives of non-governmental organizations, civil society, and young people, the global conference – titled Marriage: Formation and Constituents of Stability – underscored various issues that challenge marital stability and called for policies and programs to prepare young people for marriage.
The discussions on the last day of Doha International Family Institute’s (DIFI) conference focused on the importance of support systems in strengthening marital stability, particularly for marriages facing challenging situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic and displacement due to conflict. They also examined the valuable role of extended families and marital education programs.
Kickstarting the last day was a session on The Future of Marriage Policies. Moderated by Hitmi Khalifa Al Hitmi, Lecturer, Qatar University and social media influencer, its speakers included Dan Anderberg, Professor, Department of Economics, Royal Holloway, University of London; Shafi Al Hajri, Associate Professor, Qatar University; Hairil Fadzly Md Akir, Deputy Director General, National Population and Family Development, Malaysia; Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Hamad Medical Corporation; and Balázs Molnár, Vice-President for Strategy and Coordination, Kopp Maria Institute for Demography and Families, Hungary.
Citing examples on how policies can foster stable marriages, Hitmi said: “I consider it necessary to broaden the scope of premarital screening and include more matters than those being currently examined.
“This conference will help academics and non-academics to broaden their perspective of future policies on something integral that affect all human beings, such as marriage. Discussing these topics may bear fruit and lead to an increased percentage of successful marriages.”
In a session on Extended Families and Marital Stability, Saleh Al Ghadori, Director of Social Affairs Department, Executive Bureau, Council of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs, Kuwait; Reem Abu Hassan, Former Jordanian Minister of Social Development, Jordan; Parveen Ali, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of Research and Innovation, Health Sciences School, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom; and Robinson Mose Ocharo, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Work, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, gathered to discuss the types of support provided by extended families. The session was moderated by Sheni Hamid, Political Strategist, Advisor and Media Consultant, United Kingdom.
“One of the inevitable things that individuals must learn to live with is the effect extended families have on marriage. The effects of extended families are more positive than negative on the newly formed family,” Mr. Ghadori said.
“Extended families create a social network that supports the new family, providing it with security, psychological support, and protection for the couple and children. They also contribute to resolving disputes faster and emphasizing the concept of social responsibility.”
Crisis can also put significant strain on marriage and families, which was highlighted in the sessions Marriage in the Time of COVID-19 and Marriage in Conflict Zones.
Moderated by Mohammed Al Hayder, Positive Psychologist and People Empowerment Expert, the session on COVID-19’s impact on marriage featured the speakers Haela M. Almikrish, Executive Deputy to the Secretary General, Family Affairs Council, Saudi Arabia; Lissel Mogaka, Director, Family Promotion, Protection and Social Welfare Division, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection State Department for Social Protection, Kenya; and Ibrahim Al-Ansari, Event & Wedding Planner.
Speaking about his experience as a wedding planner and as a newlywed, Al-Ansari said: “We had the idea of having a wedding in mind before the pandemic, as we had gotten engaged at the beginning of last year and agreed that the wedding would be at the end of the year. The wedding date got closer, and everyone was waiting for that day to see how it would take place.
“I decided not to hold a wedding for men, who expressed their congratulations by phone. And as for the women's party, we held it in an outdoor garden in a hotel, divided into two time slots to accommodate the largest number of guests. This was a new idea in the Qatari community. Also, my customers liked it and I started doing the same for them.”
Commenting on the impact of conflict on family members, Najat Al Abdullah, Director of the Family Affairs Department, Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor, and Social Affairs, said: “Despite the large number of undertakings by nation-States to protect children in difficult circumstances and conflicts, this matter remains a persistent issue. Children are at great risk of suffering a long psychological distress. These children can be protected through the focused support and supervision of specialists and through family and child control. This requires interventions by public and educational health sectors to ensure they have access to quality education, safe environment, health system, and psychological support.”
Al Abdullah was joined by Her Excellency Sheikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Thani, Special Envoy of the Arab League Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs; Yafa Shanneik, Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom; and Hanan Ashegh, Founder, Goodwill Caravan, United Kingdom, in a session titled Marriage in Conflict Zones, and moderated by Susan Karamanian, Dean, College of Law, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).
The last day also included two Ask the Expert sessions with Dr. Aisha al-Mannai, Professor and Director of Muhammad Bin Hamad Al Thani Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, College of Islamic Studies, HBKU, on marriage from an Islamic perspective, and with Humoud Fahad Alqashan, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Kuwait University, and family and marital therapist, who held a Q&A with event participants about preparing for marriage.
During her closing remarks, Dr. Sharifa Noaman Al-Emadi, Executive Director, DIFI, said: “This multifaceted forum has enabled us to underline the Arab nature of our mission’s principles on the Arab family. We also strive to emphasize the international aspect of this initiative by taking in global perspectives and experiences.
"I can only extend my sincere appreciation to our national, regional, and international partners, without whom the conference would not have received this extent support and concerted efforts to render it successful. I would also like to extend thanks and appreciation to all the participants.
“We will not make shiny recommendations and overarching slogans on strengthening the Arab family. Rather, following the conference, we are going to commit ourselves to a trailblazing program of work with our local, regional, and international partners to produce scientific evidence and advocate the development of relevant policies and programs at all levels.”
More than 1,000 individuals attended 18 interactive discussions spread over three days at the conference by DIFI, a member of Qatar Foundation. Through this global conference, DIFI aimed to advocate for the development and implementation of policies, interventions, protection programs, and best practices that preserve the wellbeing and stability of marital relations worldwide.
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