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Portrait of a Nation: Divorcee wants women to learn from her experiences

ABU DHABI // After going through a divorce and a custody battle for her children, Aysha Al Naqbi knows the trauma that marriage break-ups can cause.

So, Ms Al Naqbi has decided to dedicate herself to helping other women going through similar experiences.

“It can be tough being a divorced female,” says Ms Al Naqbi, 38, from Khor Fakkan.

“You will get questioned a lot, ‘why you’re travelling alone, where you’re going?’

“It was very tough in the beginning, but now people have seen the growth and improvement I’ve had in my life.”

She left her studies at the UAE University before she completed her degree so she could financially support her family.

She then joined the Army for five years, where she was one of a small number of female recruits.

She believes her military service instilled mental toughness.

“For the first 45 days you couldn’t leave the campus so that was harder even than university because we at least could leave there at weekends,” she says.

“I saw my family every weekend during university but I had to complete this challenge to pass the training,” she says.

She left after five years to work as a TV editor.

It was during her time in the Army that she married and had her first child, Ahmed, now 14. Two years later, she would give birth to Wadima.

She divorced when the children were four and two years old and she moved to Dubai to work at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel as one of the first batch of Emiratis to join the company’s Emiratisation programme.

It took four years of legal action, including three when she was not allowed contact with her children, to win custody.

“My husband said that if I divorced him he would take the children, but I didn’t want to be tied to him that way,” she said.

“For three whole years, I didn’t even hear their voice,” she said. “Those three years were the hardest ever. Even seeing kids in television commercials made the tears come.”

She also suffered from lack of support.

“People told me I couldn’t manage alone, but I knew I was doing the right thing, so I went to court alone and then told my family I was divorced. It took time to get them back on side.”

She said she did not regret her decision to divorce.

“Marriage for me isn’t just about being with someone. It’s a lot of components. You to to find the right person to support you, who can also guide you, it’s not only financial. My husband wasn’t the right person for me at that stage in my life, that’s all.”

Now Ms Al Naqbi now works in the human resources department at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Outside of work she plans to start coaching women to help them cope with divorce.

She has been training as a Gallup certified coach from Kingston Business Academy of Higher Education, and is ready to start sharing her expertise and experience with others.

“There is not a lot of support and emotionally, it’s the most difficult phase. The way we’ve been raised is to be the victim. Now I’m more aware of my own capabilities and feel we must move from the victim to the hero that we wanted to be.”

She realises there are mindsets to change. “We still have very conservative families,” she said. “But you have to do what is right for you and not what others expect of you so it’s important to speak out about these stories. Mostly we hear of the failures, but the most powerful stories are the successes. When someone else shows they’ve done it, it shows people they can do it too.

“There’s still a big taboo around divorce but if it’s done for the right reasons it doesn’t have to be a failure story. It’s a success story.”​

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The National