All you need is….

Karima, my story for Nina


….or how unrealistic expectations can lead to confrontational relationships

by Karima H’mimsa

I saw this classic movie when I was young called Afwah wa Araneb from 1977, starring Faten Hamama who was simply brilliant. The film was a drama mind you, but one which didn’t lose touch with the basic humanity of its characters and also a love story where Ne’mat ( Faten Hamama) struggles to get married to the man she loved, they overcome all problems and dramas and finally live happily ever after.

The Beatles claimed in the sixties that ‘All You Need is Love’.  However, research has shown that in this day and age equality, adaptability and reliability rate more highly in terms of key contributory factors in a sustainable relationship. We seem to live in a romantic culture where love and passion are the key to the perfect relationship.

The hard numbers, however, speak significantly to this regard:  Of all couples who marry, a quarter will be apart before death separates them.

But why does it go wrong so often? Is it because many people either cannot, or are not prepared to, meet the high demands of a good relationship? In our consumer-driven, individualist culture maybe being a ‘couple’ is not the same as it once was.

One thing is for sure, many marriages don’t make it. Typical problems include infidelity, boredom or financial issues. However, unfortunately domestic violence is also becoming increasingly prevalent. Abuse figures span class, cultures, traditions and geographies – and although it is clear that statistics do differ from region to region, key similarities remain. Essentially if unemployment is high, women’s rights (whether cultural or legal) are low and women’s ability to contribute economically is curtailed, there are enough individual tragedies to form an overall picture of societal breakdown. The problem is so recognised that the UN now specifically train their health officers to recognise signs of domestic violence against women more rapidly, enabling them to  respond more quickly to victims’ needs, including psychological trauma.

South and South- East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of such violence, at 37.7%. Women in the Arab world and Africa hardly rate any better, at 37%. In Latin America, it’s 30% , while in Eastern Europe and Central Asia a quarter of women faced violence. In North America, Western Europe, Japan and Oceania the rate is estimated to be 23%

Iraqi women continue to face widespread instances of gender based violence. According to the information provided by a number of governmental and non-governmental sources to UNAMI(report on human rights in Iraq) , the main forms of violence against women and girls included, but were not limited to, physical abuse, killing and so-called honour killing, trafficking, early marriages, and female genital mutilation. One in five women (21%) aged 15- 49 has suffered physical violence at the hands of husbands, 33% have suffered emotional violence, and 83% have been subjected to controlling behaviour by their husbands. Many of the issues related to the violation of women’s rights arise from entrenched cultural traditions and social practices. A 2009 youth survey showed 68% of young Iraqi men believe that it is acceptable to kill a girl for profaning a family’s honour, while 50% believe wife beating is acceptable. Meanwhile, young Iraqi women and men cited family upbringing (40%), religion (37%) and the law (35%) as major factors that would help prevent violence against women, considerably more than the media (6%) or schools (3%).


It’s almost impossible not to have heard about ‘ the dress’. It resulted in a storm on social media and headlines in the news about the colour of the dress- is it white and gold or black and blue?  Although the news storm is now past I want to resurrect the subject one more time, the Salvation Army in South Africa made ​​the most of a strong advertising campaign:



Domestic violence nina-iraq

South African Advertising using ‘the Dress’

Photo credit: Ireland Davenport, South Africa


In Kenya, one of the reasons for marital disputes, according to the group ” Maendeleo Ya Wanaume” (Development for men) is the increasing financial independence of women. This Kenyan organization encourages men go on strike against the growing abuse of men. They would not touch food prepared by their wives as a protest. This is not of course violence, but is a sign of cultural traditions and financial need  contributing to domestic conflict situations.


According to a UN report (SOURCE), there is more need for prevention and education. We have to create awareness of the effect s of domestic conflict as well as violence, giving victims a voice. However of course, working together within a relationship ( if at all possible) to prevent conflict is always preferable to outside intervention. I came across these pointers in terms of what makes a good relationship and thought they’d be of interest here:


1 Self-knowledge

Knowing yourself and knowing what characteristics and qualities you find important in another.

2 People Knowledge

Know what you are looking for in a partner, but also be able to recognize these qualities in the other person.

3 Like-mindedness 

A good relationship occurs when individual and collective goals in life are matched.

4 Equivalence

Equivalence should not be confused with total equality. What matters is that partners distribute their tasks so that both are satisfied and feel useful and appreciated.


To live comfortably with a partner, it is essential to know how he or she works and feels in different circumstances.

6 Social skills

Good talks, listening and resolving conflicts peacefully.

7 Adaptability

Learn to live with other people’s quirks.

8 Reliability

In a good relationship partners are careful with commitments, only making promises they can keep.

9 Intelligence

Assess and solve efficiently the problems in a relationship. People with strong problem solving skills are certainly better able to circumvent the many cliffs from which relationship can fall.

10 Sexual satisfaction

A sex life that meets the needs of both. Not only in the first few months, but until the end of time.


So Afwah wa Araneb – a fairy tale story: the message of this film encapsulates how 2 people can work together to create mutual happiness using clear goals and perseverance. Hats off to the director of this masterpiece of Egyptian cinema Henry Barakat, and to the writer and screenwriter Samir Abdel-Azim. To conclude: In my opinion …Love is not to be idealized, we need to create awareness amongst women and stimulate empowerment. Love is a verb and continually work in progress.

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