07/15/2009 10:41 PM
Sharjah: "I haven't seen nor heard from my husband in 12 years," says Umm Ahmad. "I don't know where he is and I don't care, I just want to get on with my life."
Umm Ahmad filed for divorce recently. She is part of a group of women who attended a workshop on marital conflict held at Sharjah's House of Justice complex on Wednesday.
The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA) as part of their awareness programme with the Family Guidance and Reform Initiative.
Some of the problems members of the group had in common included unemployment, alcoholism and polygamy. "He has never had a job and after getting married I learned that he's an alcoholic," says Umm Ahmad.
"My mother has been spending her welfare cheques on my son and I for food and clothes. I can't take it when my son asks for something simple and I can't provide for him."
Mariam (not here real name), who has filed for divorce after 25 years of marriage, says: "All the pressure is on the wife and the husband just doesn't care.
"I have lost everything. He hasn't been a husband or a father in more than ten years and in the last two or three years I feel that he is ruining everything I have built with my children," says the mother of four.
Mariam explains that she got married at the age of 12 and soon learned that her husband drinks and is addicted to drugs, "He was sent to jail for five years for drug possession. That's five years of my life wasted.
"He has ignored his family for two decades and then suddenly he wants to be a father. He spoils the children and turning them against me and making me look like the bad person.
"I'm worried about my daughters, they used to be so sweet now I'm scared they might become delinquents."
Mariam says she has filed for divorce since 2006, but her husband refuses to cooperate with the proceedings.
"My husband had an affair with a foreign woman and then took her as a second wife. She is controlling him and keeping him from seeing his children. Even on Ramadan we don't see him," says another member of the group.
"I have been trying to work out our conflicts with the MSA for 15 years now. I don't want any money or anything, I just want to feel appreciated as a wife and for my children to be happy; that's not too much to ask," she says.
"Its just futile, I have no patience left for that man."
The mother of three says her eldest daughter is 23 and has people coming to ask for her hand in marriage all the time, "She keeps turning them away because she is embarrassed about them learning about her father's drinking."
The MSA will hold a workshop for the husbands on Thursday.
"We have set up this workshop for couples who have filed for divorce," says Fawziyah Tarish, who heads the initiative and is Director of the MSA's Family Development Department.
"This workshop will not only address conflict resolution, but more importantly it can offer counselling for how to cope after a divorce."