This article is not based on Western styled living nor is it one woman telling another how many children she should have. As the headline states, it is directed towards UAE women, of whom roughly only 16.5% are local Emirati/Bedouin. The rest are classified as expats and come from other GCC countries, India, Pakistan, SE Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas as well as Australasia etc. When you take these statistics in to consideration, you can see how the number of average children is 2.37 but I have yet to see a Bedouin family with so few children. The average is, I’d say from experience, 5,6, or 7 per woman with the birthing process starting as early as 15 or 16 years of age. In such cases, what I’ve see is many of these families, too, have at least one child with a physical and / or emotional and mental disability which, as yet, perhaps because of the area’s remoteness has yet to be defined using any western special needs requirements and education plans used in the UK.
It’s also a world apart from UK/USA styled Jeremy Kyle lifestyle choices as it is directed at Emirati/Arab women living in remote areas in the Abu Dhabi region which stretches all the way across hundreds of miles of sand towards Saudi and beyond and in which the Bedouin people are inhabitants. Jeremy Vile demonstrates how the West have taken things like free medical care, welfare, education for all, sanitation and personal health for granted and created an entitlement state worlds apart from where I live. Just last week I had a conversation with a local woman who didn’t realize that chewing gum was not a substitute for brushing your teeth and that too much sugar was what was making everyone’s teeth turn black.
Here at school on the Saudi border, many of our colleagues were married off at 14 and/or 15 years of age and had babies each year until their husband married wife #2, #3 and #4. Some were subsequently divorced when no child was produced within a year of marriage. Some went through a marriage ceremony only to be told on their wedding night that their husbands wanted a divorce and the marriage was never consummated.
Many of the women, as a result of having poor understanding about pre and post natal care are suffering from physical disablements like pelvic and hip, problems. You have a case of children bringing up children. Our western colleagues in the senior schools talk of 14 year old girls being excited about leaving school within the next year to get married so they can have a mobile phone. Understanding towards western women who choose to not have children is limited as girls are brought up with the idea that they are here only to procreate. Situations like our Egyptian colleague who fled her home town to come and work out in the sticks as her first born child was a girl and was subsequently beaten up and thrown down stairs by her husband highlight the difference in understanding between our western idea of relationships, marriage, home and family and the cultural norm out here. (He has yet to grant her a divorce as he says he wants to punish her for the rest of her life for not giving him a son but has since married wife #2 who has produced the son within the year).
When women are not educated on the importance taking a daily contraceptive pill or of pre and post natal care and those vital trips to hospitals because the hospital is a 2 or 3 days’ drive away then it’s really not a question either of whether the problem comes back to the physiological strength of a woman to birth a child. And when the women can’t read the instructions on the medical packets, then you’re pretty much filling up a bucket with holes with water.
The article also states that family interference, health insurance and work commitments hinder medical check ups. We see men stay at home or disappear off to the shiny, city lights of hedonistic Dubai for days at a time whilst the women stay at home to work and bring up the children with a Filipino / Indonesian/ Bangladeshi maid. The lack of understanding as to how medical appointments must be paid for (not like UK where it is all provided gratis on the NHS) and families who live in large compounds (think our back yard with the sheds all housing 1 man per family with 2,3,4 wives and many, many children all bringing each other up) all contribute.
I’ve seen first hand how women sit in hospital waiting rooms with 2 or 3 children hanging on her whilst the young mother (and they are young!) stares blanky ahead, not interacting whilst the children fight and tustle for her attention (and it can’t be from not lack of sleep as there are many maids and many adults around in the extended family looking out for the little people). In our schools you will, unfortunately, witness first hand children who can’t use their fine and gross motor skills to feed them selves or speak articulately as there is no one sitting one on one with them teaching them how to do these vital developmental things in their homes.
Living out here and working in this remotest of remote areas has taught appreciation of freedom and education as a woman that we take for granted. Thank God for the final line in this article where the suggestion has been put forward to build a women and children’s hospital. There needs to be not just one W&C hospital based a million miles away in Dubai but a section in each of the newly built grandiose hospitals in local tows for women and children’s medical care. This is not criticism, it’s daily observation. All views my own.