File - Dr. Ayman Abdel Aziz.
CAIRO - 14 February 2020: Every day, 542 couples get divorced in Egypt—that’s a staggering 198,000 cases, reveal the latest figures from CAPMAS. The numbers are for 2017 and also indicate that some 38 percent of all divorces are comprised of newlywed couples married between one and three years.
In an effort to address the spiralling divorce rates, the Ministry of Social Solidarity has launched the “Mawadda” Program, with the primary aim of keeping couples together.
“The idea of the Mawadda [which roughly translates to Cordiality] program
came up at the sixth Youth Forum that took place at Cairo University in July 2018, when President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi asked the Minster of Social Solidarity—at that time Dr. Ghada Wali—to study the reasons behind the high divorce rates in Egypt that had become a phenomenon,” says Dr. Ayman Abdel Aziz, the General Coordinator of the program.
“The minister went back to the statistics provided by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics [CAPMAS] and found that in 2017, there were 198,000 divorce [cases in Egypt], marking about 542 per day,” says Abdel Aziz, who has a strong academic background in the area of family disputes, adding that the rate of divorces among the newly married couples who had been married for one to three years was the highest, constituting 38 percent of the total number of divorces that year.
Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said were the governorates with the highest percentages.
“The minister thought that since the highest divorce rates are among newly married couples, we have to raiseawareness in this demographic about the importance of
protecting their marriage bond and the negative consequences of divorce before they get married, to solve the divorce problem from its roots,” Abdel Aziz says.
The Mawadda program teaches youth the skills needed to protect their marriage before they commit to this union.
It teaches both young men and women how to deal with each other to be able have a successful and strong relationship, and teaches married couples how to be role models
for their kids, Abdel Aziz explains.
A protocol has been developed between the program and the Ministry of Higher Education, given that universities bring together the biggest numbers of Egyptian youth in one place.
“We’ve completed two rounds [of training] for university students; in each round we spoke with 20,000 youths,” Abdel Aziz recounts, explaining that the first round took
place in March and April 2019 and the second round was in November and December of the same year.
Mawadda also offered sessions to 12,000 young women and men who are performing their general service after university graduation, in addition to raising the awareness
of 30,000 young army conscripts, 2,500 police conscripts and 500 university students at summer camps.
Abdel Aziz explains that each training day includes three workshops: a religious, medical and social/psychological session, in addition to a psychodrama session presented by two of the participants who portray a married couple negatively interacting with each other, and two others (or the same) portraying a married couple showing positive interaction.
“We practically see the difference between the negative and positive interactions, and the participants themselves start to know what is right and what is wrong, so they start to say, ‘no the husbands shouldn’t have done that or the wives should have done this.’ Instead of just telling them this is right and this is wrong, we make them think and discover by themselves the right and wrong things, that way we push them to change themselves by themselves, not just by memorizing the scientific content now and forgetting it after a while,” Abdel Aziz explains.
Creating a comprehensive scientific guide covering all aspects of marriage, Mawadda’s content is offered directly to university, session and camp participants as well as indirectly to everyone through the program’s online platform and Facebook page, Abdel Aziz says.
The content is reviewed by Al-Azhar and the Supreme Council of Universities. Mawadda’s online platform was launched by President Sisi during the third edition of the World Youth Forum that took place in December 2019.
The platform offers advisory information for parents of sons or daughters who are about to wed, as well as guidance to young women and men before marriage.
Married couples can also find advice and access information, “because some married couples unfortunately lack a lot of information about the medical, psychological, social and sexual sides of the marriage relationship which contributes to the high divorce rates,” Abdel Aziz explains.
Through the platform, users can access to guidance lectures offered by 17 experts, including Sheikh Amr ElWardany who raises their religious awareness pertaining to
marriage relationships; Dr. Mohamed El-Mahdy who gives lectures about psychological awareness; veteran actress
Ragaa El-Gidawi; famed writer, scriptwriter, poet and producer Medhat El-Adl; and TV presenter Shafky El-Monayery. Through their lectures on the platform, the experts
offer their wide experience to users to help them understand the true meaning of marriage. Also, Dr. Mohamed el Mahdy delivers lectures on the platform to raise psychological awareness.
“The 17 Mawadda platform experts are respected public figures that youth consider as role models and look up to.We are keen that Mawadda platform experts have different backgrounds, covering all the aspects of the marriage relationship; whether medical, social, sexual, psychological, religious or human,” Abdel Aziz says, adding that anyone can register on Mawadda’s online platform for free, by providing their name, number, email, and creating their own personal account and then they can watch all videos.
“Between the videos, we ask users questions to know the extent to which they were paying attention and understood the information given to them by the experts. We
want to be sure that people truly benefit from Mawadda lectures, and not just watch the videos and gain nothing,” Abdel Aziz says.
In addition to the online platform, Mawadda’s official Facebook page is very active, as anyone can ask any question related to the medical, psychological, social and sexual sides of marriage. Users can also find a number of videos produced by the platform on YouTube.
Recently, the program produced a play that was staged on Sayed Darwish Theater, where entrance was free. It tackled how married couples’ problems have persisted
from the Pharaonic era till now, the nature of the problems between husbands and wives, and how they devel-oped over the ages. More free plays will be produced in the
upcoming period, tailor-made for couples who are about to get married and for married couples, to be able to recognize and overcome their problems, Abdel Aziz announces.
In the upcoming period, Mawada will cooperate with the Ministry of Justice through the family courts and dispute resolution office, to talk with the married couples who have disputes with each other to prevent their divorce.
‘’So Mawada is keen to preserve the marriage bond in all its stages before marriage and after marriage’’ Abdel Aziz said.
The program has a total of 240 trainers who “work in the three governorates with the highest divorce rates:
Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said, in the three universities in Cairo which are Ain Shams, Helwan and Cairo Universities, in addition to Alexandria University and Port Said
university,” Abdel Aziz explains, adding that Mawadda was keen on choosing younger trainers who share a common language with youth, so that they are able
to interact with and understand each other.
The trainers are of varied professional backgrounds. A number of governmental and nongovernmental organizations are partnering with Mawadda, such as the Ministries of Higher Education, Justice, Defense and Interior, Al-Azhar, the Coptic Orthodox Church, Dar El-Iftaa, the National Council for Women, the Information and Decision
Support Center (IDSC) and the United Nations Fund For Population Activities (UNFPA). In future, Mawadda is set to cooperate with the Ministry of Justice through the family
courts and dispute resolution office, to talk with married couples in an effort to prevent their divorce.
“Mawadda is keen on preserving the marriage bond in all its stages, before
marriage and after marriage,” Abdel Aziz says.