ABU DHABI // The Emirates Foundation, one of the country's largest charities, has decided to fund new research into some of the biggest problems facing Emirati families, including a rising national divorce rate. The charity is accepting submissions for its Emirati Family Research Competition, which is also seeking entries on such topics as marriage, divorce, family values, relationships between young people and even the role of maids as care-givers.
"We felt there is a need to focus on families. Family is the backbone of the society and most problems begin there," said Kholoud al Nuwais, director of projects at the foundation. "Issues like the high rate of divorce that we hear about could be solved if we focus on challenges facing Emirati families, we believe." No official figures are available on how many marriages involving Emirati couples end in divorce, although the rate is understood to have increased in recent years. A 2003 study of divorce in Gulf countries found that 46 per cent of all UAE marriages ended in divorce.
The Judicial Department said it was in the process of compiling updated figures. Mrs al Nuwais said priority would be given to proposals that could identify current challenges and predict future ones. The results would be useful for families and decision-makers, she said. The grants will be awarded in January. According to the foundation, little research has been done on the problems facing Emirati families.
By addressing these issues, the foundation said, the competition was "an important major step towards addressing challenges facing Emirati society at large". Last year, the foundation offered grants for studies on Emirati youth and the challenges they face. Funds will be provided by the Emirates Foundation and Occidental Petroleum Corporation. Applications will be assessed by a committee that includes people from both organisations.
Dr Ray Irani, the chairman and chief executive officer of Oxy, said the researchers could help contribute to a better understanding of the structure of Emirati families. "The aim ... is to increase the amount of empirical, well-researched information on Emirati families and the challenges they face," he said. The competition is open to researchers with doctorate degrees in education and social sciences. Successful applicants will be required to employ at least two Emirati researchers in social sciences, as trainees or assistant researchers.