Arab women want strong marriage over rights

United Arab Emirates, April 2011

Women in the UAE attach more importance to a strong marriage than to greater independence, a new survey indicates.

Of 151 people surveyed for Al Aan TV’s Nabd al Arab (Arabs’ Pulse) programme by YouGov Siraj, more than a third (37 per cent) believe the condition of women in the UAE is worse than of those in other countries.

But that seems of little cause for concern: two in three say a strong marriage is the most important indication of a woman’s success, even if it means she keeps her thoughts to herself.

Hessa Taliq, a research analyst at Dubai Women’s Establishment, agreed marriage was the priority.

“It is my priority. I see it for every woman, not just Arab women,” she said.

Careers come second, she said. “But that does not mean it is not important; it is almost just as important,” she added.

Mohamed Hassan, head of Sharia at Salman al Farasi Mosque in Dubai, said it was in a woman’s nature to want a strong marriage.

“Women have a shortage which can only be fulfilled by a man, a strong man, her husband,” he said.

Although 91 per cent of the women surveyed believe that a woman should stand up for what she believes is right, fewer than half – 47 per cent – agreed that they would do so if it meant going against their husband’s wishes.

Maysoon Baraky, who presents Nabd al Arab, said it was right that women should avoid going against their husband’s wishes, especially when it came to sensitive issues such as a career decision.

“There is always priority for the man,” she said. “The results are very realistic. Ask any man, even girls: they prefer this. Even me, I think this way.”

Just over one third – 36 per cent – of respondents said women should stand up for what they believe is right, even if it goes against values, traditions or her community.

The career most widely cited – 79 per cent – as suitable for women was that of teacher, followed by doctor (78 per cent) and nurse (64 per cent).

Fatima Almotwa, a teaching assistant at United Arab Emirates University, said Arab women prefer to work in respectable, stable jobs that involve limited interaction with the opposite sex.

“Because of customs and traditions it is better to be a teacher,” she said. “If you look at a school society, 90 per cent of the teachers are women, and they have separate schools for males and for females.”

Only 11 per cent of the respondents said Arab women aspired to be independent, and even fewer – 7 per cent – said Arab women wanted empowerment.

Far more suggested that women strive to be well respected (57 per cent) or confident (42 per cent).

“Actually, when you are in independent, you are respected,” Mrs Taliq said. ” Respect is No 1 for me, and among other Arab women.”

The survey was conducted from March 6 to 13. The margin of error was not specified.

Of the UAE respondents, 21 per cent were UAE nationals. The largest expatriate group of respondents was Egyptians, at 22 per cent.