3:20 pm  Aug 26, 1991
Source: Peacenet
(Fido:250/222) igc:wfs
Copyright WOMEN'S FEATURE SERVICE, All Rights Reserved

By Rachel Waterhouse

Summary: When Mozambique converted to a multiparty system and free
market economy under a new national constitution last November, it
signalled the end of Frelimo's support to `popular' organizations
such as the National Women's Organization which works to educate
women, address social problems and represent all women's
organizations in the country. Some of the difficulties it must
overcome include a severe cut in funding and trying to rally the
interest of women distracted by daily survival. (700 words)

Maputo, July 24 (WFS) -- Only six months after her election to head
the National Women's Organization, Organicacao da Mulher
Mocambicana (OMM), secretary general Teresa Tembe says her job is
frustrating and fraught with disappointment.

	  Indeed, Tembe faces a formidable challenge: To pull the
organization from a crisis, and chart a fresh course in
Mozambique's newly `liberalized' society.

	  As the civil war-torn southern African nation shifts from
socialism to what intellectuals call "raw capitalism and violent
competition," OMM seems to stand little chance of surviving.

	  When Mozambique achieved independence from Portugal in 1975,
the Marxist Frelimo government created and funded all popular
organizations. The OMM was set up from the women's section of
Frelimo's liberation fighters, with the primary task of
popularizing the party's policies and promoting women's
emancipation as defined by Frelimo.

	  When the country changed to a multiparty system and free
market economy under a new national constitution last November, it
signalled the end of Frelimo's support to `popular' organizations.
And OMM lost its reason to exist.

	  Tembe, who suddenly finds her movement cut adrift from its
traditional support, feels that "the OMM (the only women's
organization in the country until last year) has to renew itself."

	  For the same reasons, Mozambique's other `mass' organizations
-- of workers, teachers and journalists -- have already decided to
redefine themselves as "independent trade unions."

	  Hardly surprising, therefore, when some 500 OMM delegates met
recently for their fourth national conference in Maputo, they could
barely be recognized. Gone were the robes adorned with pictures of
Mozambique's president and the old slogans. The OMM had declared
its independence.

	  The organization was now open to all Mozambican women
"regardless of any political, class, race or religious

	  "My aim is that OMM should educate women, address social
problems and represent all women's organizations in the country,"
Tembe told WFS. Today, OMM wants to concentrate on social work and
eventually on social reconstruction.

	  The conference came at a time of crisis for the organization.
Since its last assembly in 1980, membership had fallen. Of 45
members on its coordinating council, only six were still working
and income had reduced by more than 80 percent in two years.

	  Delegates blamed it on the civil war that has raged in
Mozambique for 15 years, and on the effects of economic
liberalization begun in 1987 under an IMF-prescribed economic
recovery program (PRE).

	  Women are so submerged in their daily struggle for survival,
said the members, that it is increasingly difficult to "mobilize
for political rallies around policies now abandoned by Frelimo."

	  Women who bear full responsibility for child, health and home
care, have suffered most under PRE, as government subsidies reduced
while prices continued to spiral. Today, a loaf of bread costs $1,
against the minimum wage for domestic work (one of the few
employment opportunities for women here) of around $16 a month.

	  Most rural women have little or no cash income and are further
disadvantaged by illiteracy. Thousands of them have lost all means
of survival in the war between government troops and the right-wing
Renamo rebels, which, according to United Nations estimates, has
forced some four-and-a-half million people to flee their homes.

	  Despite OMM's changed role, Tembe admits that there has not
been much progress because "normal life has been destabilized by
the war." And so OMM is concentrating on education and training,
especially of its own members and in subjects like literacy,
cooking and home care.

	  Since the new constitution guarantees freedom of association,
OMM is now also facing competition from other women's
organizations. "OMM seems stuck with domestic issues, so we are
creating our own organization to promote women's economic advance,"
says Emma Mossa, executive member of the Association for Mozambican
Business and Executive Women recently launched in Maputo.

	  Critics say that OMM has failed to rejuvenate itself so far,
and point to its leadership as an example. The organization's
honorary president still is First Lady Marcelina Chissano.

	  Meanwhile, OMM needs to find new sources of funding, which is
unlikely to come from its members. And with increasing competition
it needs to try harder to revamp itself. Otherwise, the "mother of
women's organizations" in Mozambique could well find itself
consigned to the powder room. - Ends