Angola Table of Contents
The OMA was established in 1963 to mobilize support for the fledgling MPLA. After independence, it became the primary route by which women were incorporated in the political process. Its membership rose to 1.8 million in 1985 but dropped to less than 1.3 million in 1987. The group attributed this decline to the regional destabilization and warfare that displaced and destroyed families in rural areas, where more than two-thirds of OMA members lived. In 1983 Ruth Neto, the former president's sister, was elected secretary general of the OMA and head of its fifty-three-member national committee. Neto was reelected secretary general by the 596 delegates who attended the OMA's second nationwide conference on March 2, 1988.
During the 1980s, the OMA established literacy programs and worked to expand educational opportunities for women, and the government passed new legislation outlawing gender discrimination in wages and working conditions (see Conditions after Independence , ch. 2). MPLA-PT rhetoric emphasized equality between the sexes as a prerequisite to a prosperous socialist state. At both the First Party Congress and the Second Party Congress, the MPLA-PT Central Committee extolled contributions made by women, but in 1988 only 10 percent of MPLA-PT members were women, and the goal of equality remained distant. Through the OMA, some women were employed in health and social service organizations, serving refugees and rural families. More women were finding jobs in teaching and professions from which they had been excluded in the past, and a very small number occupied important places in government and the MPLA-PT. However, most Angolan women were poor and unemployed.
In addition to leading the OMA, Ruth Neto also served on the MPLA-PT Central Committee and as secretary general of the PanAfrican Women's Organization (PAWO), which had its headquarters in Luanda. The PAWO helped sponsor Angola's annual celebration of Women's Day (August 9), which was also attended by representatives from neighboring states and liberation movements in South Africa and Namibia.
Data as of February 1989